It’s a lot less of a mystery now.
Pretty much everyone in the NBA has a decent handle on how the return of the so-called “amnesty” clause, conceived in 2005, is designed to operate in 2011.
That’s the good news.
The bad news: Looks like the magic bullet that teams will be granted in the new labor agreement, inviting them to take a mulligan on their most unpalatable contract, will not lead to the sort of free-agent bonanza that so many of us transaction-game lovers were anticipating. At least not immediately.
And here’s why: Teams will be permitted to waive one player with pay prior to any season of the labor deal — only for contracts in place with the team making the move as of July 1, 2011 — and have 100 percent of the player’s salary removed from a team’s payroll for both salary-cap and luxury-tax purposes. That means teams can save this mulligan for next season or beyond, unlike in 2005 when teams had just two weeks in August to use or lose the original amnesty clause forever.
Also: Players who are released via the new amnesty clause don’t instantly become free agents like they did in 2005, when Michael Finley was not only paid millions to leave the Dallas Mavericks but also had the right to head straight to San Antonio and collect a championship ring with the Spurs within two seasons. Players released through the 2011 amnesty clause have to go through a modified waiver process before becoming a free agent that gives teams with salary-cap space first crack at submitting offers in the manner of a blind auction to claim an amnestied player by bidding the amount of the player’s contract they’re willing to eat.
The combined effect of those restrictions are what prompted one unnamed team executive to tell The New York Times earlier this week that three to six teams, at most, will release players via amnesty before the Dec. 25 scheduled start of the 2011-12 season. No one is disputing that estimate, either, because the temptation to save the amnesty card, as insurance against truly dire circumstances down the road. is going to be too tough for most teams to resist.
All teams, though, continue to draft their own mock amnesty lists, attempting to forecast which players do or don’t have a shot to ultimately join the free-agent pool through the amnesty hatch. And we’ve re-done our own team-by-team breakdown of the amnesty thought process for each of the NBA’s 30 front offices, in consultation with various team executives and agents, since these mulligans have to be cashed in between Dec. 9 and Christmas Day or pocketed until the summer of 2012 at the earliest.