Josh Harrellson didn't directly answer when the Detroit Pistons' 15th man, at least by contract status, was asked last week if he has Jan. 10, 2014 circled on his calendar.

But he immediately grasped the significance of the date when all NBA contracts become guaranteed.

"That's been a number, that's been a date, since I got in the league," Harrellson said.

He might have been an NBA champion last year, when he was with the Miami Heat, until that drop-dead date struck him hard.

The Heat released Harrellson on Jan. 7, turned his roster spot into Chris Andersen, and went on to win a second consecutive championship with bench help from the distinctively mohawked and tattooed "Birdman."

Harrellson spent the rest of the season in Puerto Rico and China, rebuilding his NBA status, until the Pistons signed him to a non-guaranteed contract during the offseson.

He didn't receive a championship ring because he wasn't on the playoff roster.

"I was there six months," Harrellson said. "There were guys there three months who got one."

Harrellson not only may be in better position to stick with a rebuilding Pistons team that needs a budget big man than with a fine-tuning championship team, he also got some chances to play in last week's two losses to Atlanta. He made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter in a cameo appearance Wednesday, then had seven points and five rebounds in 11 minutes Friday.

With the Pistons looking for an extra power forward and Jonas Jerebko, Tony Mitchell and Charlie Villanueva not grasping sporadic opportunities to take those minutes, Harrellson became next man up against the Hawks.

He never got that chance with the Heat, for whom he played 28 minutes in five games last year.

But Harrellson had five double-figure scoring games two years ago as a New York Knicks rookie and his brief playing time last week helped the Pistons, who might find more uses for him than his previous two NBA teams.