Amid reports that teams have made final decisions on things such as the amnesty clause, it’s important to note very few elements of the new CBA, including the particulars of the amnesty clause itself, have been finalized.
Take this question several readers asked after reports that the Nets had prepared an offer for Dwight Howard that would involve taking on Hedo Turkoglu’s contract: Could the Nets use the amnesty clause in that scenario on Turkoglu instead of Travis Outlaw, since Turkoglu makes about $4 million more per season and would thus provide more immediate cap relief via amnesty?
I asked the league, and their answer was swift: No. Here’s the key prong of the amnesty rule in the summary of the CBA reporters have seen (bold is mine):
Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.
The key phrase there is “in place.” The NBA told me “in place” meant on a team’s roster right now, so that teams could not use amnesty on a player they acquire via a trade made after the league resumes player movement business on Dec. 9. But union sources insist the two sides have not discussed this scenario in detail, meaning it must be hashed out, along with hundreds of other details, as the two sides scramble to complete the CBA by the end of business on Dec. 8. Perhaps “in place” in regards to amnesty-eligible contracts could simply mean “in existence now,” regardless of which team holds the contract.
This is precisely the interpretation I’d be rooting for if I’m one of the teams — and there a bunch — that have no solid amnesty candidate on hand now. I’m especially rooting for this if I’m the Thunder, Grizzlies and Bulls, three legitimate contenders (yup, I’m including the Grizz under the “contender” umbrella) with no viable amnesty candidate on the roster now. The amnesty rule as the league understands it provides nothing for those teams, aside from long-term insurance should a high-priced player suffer a chronic injury that impacts his ability but does not force retirement.
But if amnesty is available for players acquired via trade, these teams might feel free to act a bit aggressively on the trade market, searching for a short-term upgrade they could cut loose in the long run — before the harsher luxury tax comes into effect in 2013-14. Those teams might not be able to find an easy trade fit, since they like their current rosters — thus, the lack of amnesty urgency. But there are always moves to make, especially since the new CBA will include more liberal salary-matching rules for trades. The Bulls’ wing rotation is crowded with limited players, and the Thunder are reportedly about to open up a precious roster spot by buying out Nate Robinson.
While we’re here, let’s clear up a few other CBA-related tidbits:
• As I wrote earlier this week, the amnesty rule includes a waiver wire system, through which teams under the cap can bid on players released via the amnesty clause. The league and union still must decide what happens when two teams bid the same amount. (Note: That link includes details of two other amnesty-related questions the two sides must decide upon.)
• In his must-read column today, Ken Berger of CBS Sports hints at the possibility teams could trade their amnesty rights. This is another way the above-mentioned clubs, those with no obvious amnesty candidate, could nonetheless benefit from the rule, and it’s something curious executives around the league have mentioned for months. But sources close to the talks say it hasn’t been discussed in a serious way and is almost certain not to be allowed under the new CBA.
• There has been a bit of confusion about the so-called repeater tax — the extra penalty teams face if they pay the tax for a fourth time in any five-season span. The clock on that will start almost certainly start this season, according to sources close to the talks, even though the new tax rates themselves don’t start until the 2013-14 campaign. Even this isn’t set in stone, but all indications are we’re headed this way. SO: If a team pays the tax this season — as the Mavericks, Celtics, Lakers, Spurs and Heat are almost certain to — they will be able to do so just twice more over the next four seasons before that extra hit kicks in.