For those eager to think about actual basketball during this lockout, Marc Stein and Chad Ford may have provided some measure of relief last week, when they looked into the amnesty clause that will be a part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The idea is that teams will have a one-time exemption to atone for signing players to, or acquiring players with, bad contracts. Until recently, the logistics of how this would manifest itself were mostly speculation.
There is still some degree of uncertainty, but we know now that this will, indeed, exist, and it should look different than the version we saw come and go in the summer of 2005.
In 2005, teams received only luxury-tax relief on amnesty players. In 2011, according to sources close to the negotiations, there will be significant cap relief in addition to tax relief: 75 percent of a player’s contract value will not count against the salary cap when shed via amnesty. ESPN.com also reported Friday that San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt has been at the forefront of a successful push to allow teams to have at least two years to decide whether or not to release one player via amnesty, as opposed to the ’05 version that gave clubs two weeks in August to use or lose the amnesty option forever.
The New York Times and Sports Illustrated.com subsequently reported Saturday that the owners and players have reached tentative agreement on an amnesty provision that will allow teams to release one player — with pay — at any point during the life of the next collective bargaining agreement. …
Because negotiations between the league and union are ongoing, none of the finer points are binding yet. The only certainty at this point, sources say, is that a multi-year amnesty clause will be included in the new deal … with a presumed restriction forbidding the use of the amnesty clause on players acquired via future trades when the league resumes business.
The notion of an amnesty clause is exciting to many fans. Most teams have at least one “bad” contract — many have more — so it figures that people would embrace the opportunity to see the franchise for which they cheer drop the most undesirable in favor of a roster spot and cap space for a potentially better player. But it also portends more player movement, which we as fans also tend to enjoy, especially in a time when barely anything basketball-related is happening at all.
While opposition to it based on the somewhat hypocritical message that some individual owners will be sending by simultaneously crying broke and angling for a new way to spend money (much more on that here) appears futile, the whole idea is incredibly unfair to teams that have been successful at not handing out bad contracts. Like the Clippers.
Even if there are provisions to give such teams the chance to amend a future mistake, as backwards as that may be, you can’t help but wonder just how drastically the advantage accrued by managing the cap responsibly will be slashed.
Stein and Ford suggest that the Clippers could consider releasing Ryan Gomes. When Ryan Gomes — who is 29 years old, a great teammate, and has averaged below 12 points per 36 minutes only once in his career — and his two years and $8 million (only one year and $4 million guaranteed) are your team’s biggest concern, it is safe the say that the whole amnesty discussion really doesn’t apply here.
There’s conceivably only one scenario that would prompt Sterling to pay Gomes to go away. And that’s if matching an offer to restricted free-agent center (and Blake Griffin favorite) DeAndre Jordan gets so pricey that the Clips have no alternative. If Gomes’ departure can create the sort of cap room that enables the Clips to re-sign Jordan and upgrade at small forward, that’s when you’ll see it. Maybe.
Teams take on bad players with worse contracts all the time, hence the support for a rule such as this. Zach Randolph, for instance, had an annual salary nearly four times as high as Gomes will make next season and an infinitely longer rap sheet, and he got moved. Three times.
Moving Ryan Gomes if the Clippers needed the cap space just couldn’t be that difficult. It’s even more far-fetched to believe that if no deal were to be found, the cost of duplicating his salary would be prohibitive of keeping together and building around the exceptional young core of Jordan, Gordon and Griffin.
Stein alludes to the fact that the Clippers have not historically been a team that looks to find ways to add salary through cap exemptions. This is no secret, and a primary reason why Donald Sterling is a staunch supporter of a hard cap in this next CBA. Without knowing the specifics of the rule and considering the unprecedented promise of the roster, though, it would be difficult to guess how the team would act based on such precedent.
The amnesty clause is what it is and it will most certainly be a reality when the league resumes operation. But when that time comes and players start getting paid to go away, let’s be clear that there is a reason the Clippers won’t be jumping for joy: they made sound business decisions over the past few seasons and it can’t feel good to see the teams that did the opposite using a “get out of jail free” card to narrow the gap.