While NBA training camp won’t officially begin until next week, it’s safe to say that teams began opening their doors to eager players who wanted to get extra work in, as early as shortly after NBA Summer League.
For players under contract, utilizing their team’s training facility and respective resources can be a luxury as they prepare for the upcoming season. Thus, it’s common to see many working out early on. What’s not as common, however, is to have free agents blending in and hitting the hardwood alongside them.
But it still happens.
Providing free agents with a place to work out sounds like a nice concept, but according to several league sources and those close with the players, certain teams are taking advantage of free agents’ (unpaid) time. As some teams make last minute roster decisions and deliberate on who they’d like to see compete in training camp, front office officials are requesting that free agents stick around, work out, and compete before camp until further notice, so that they can decide whether or not to bring them into camp. This can go for a few days or even a couple of weeks. All the while, such prospects aren’t getting paid for these respective auditions. Out of town athletes have to pay out of pocket for a place to stay, in addition to account for related expenses in the meantime.
Of course, the dedication to their craft may be rewarded (and they could subsequently pay off these previously mentioned expenses) if a team ultimately decides to offer them a training camp contract. Perhaps then, such time and money invested would be worth it. But if in the end the desired spot goes to someone else, the rejected prospect has nothing else to show for their efforts but extra bills. It’s important to note that while NBA G League salaries have steadily increased in recent years, it may still be difficult for a fringe big league player to take the risk and front such expenses after playing in the minor league last season.
Clearly, such players are on the outside looking in. It’s one thing to be a free agent and not make any money in the interim. That’s the nature of the beast because there are only so many spots to go around. But to essentially go out there and perform, not be paid for one’s services, and then account for related expenses, is an unfortunate occurrence for aspiring NBA players.
With training camp nearing, hopefully most if not all players find the resolution they’re working toward after a hard fought offseason.