There is a sneaky, devious way that the Los Angeles Lakers can re-sign Dwight Howard, continue to pay Kobe Bryant the NBA’s highest salary and create even more cap room for this summer and next summer.
Use the amnesty provision on Bryant.
Yes, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said in the days after Bryant tore his Achilles tendon that using the one-time provision – which 15 teams still have at their disposal – on the face of the franchise was not under consideration. But maybe it should be.
Bryant is scheduled to make $30.4 million next season, a portion of which he will certainly miss. Torn Achilles tendons require 9-12 months of recovery, and Bryant suffered the injury in April. Even the supposedly superhuman Bryant could not be expected to return to the court until January at the earliest.
If the Lakers used the amnesty provision on Bryant, they would still have to pay him. But that $30.4 million would not count against the salary cap or luxury tax thresholds, making them a player for free agents both this summer and next. Here’s how:
1. The Lakers huddle with Bryant and get his clearance to use the provision, guaranteeing his salary.
2. The Lakers use their newfound cap room to make a run at a free agent. Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans or Jarrett Jack, with their combo guard skills, would be ideal considerations.
3. Bryant would then enter the bidding process and certainly would receive an offer from another team.
4. Bryant could retire, but that would mean he forfeits the $30.4 million from the Lakers. Instead, he could remain in a state of “permanent rehabilitation” and never play for the team that claimed him.
5. Since the claim is for Kobe’s one-year deal, Bryant would be a free agent next summer.
6. Next summer, the Lakers would only have Howard’s new deal, the deal of a free agent signed this summer and the partially guaranteed final year of Steve Nash’s deal on their books (plus other much smaller deals). The contracts of Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks and Chris Duhon all expire next summer.
7. Since the Lakers would no longer have Bryant’s Bird rights, would have to fit him within the cap and bid against other teams for his services, it is virtually unfathomable to imagine Bryant playing with anyone other than the Lakers. Furthermore, it is highly likely Bryant would give the Lakers a discount to make the roster around him even stronger.
Outside the spirit of the amnesty provision? Absolutely.
Besides the Lakers, 14 other teams still have their amnesty provision, which can be used any time during the length of the current CBA. Of course, that’s somewhat misleading, because no player has a contract that long. And there’s other limitations as well.
The Toronto Raptors would probably love to use the amnesty provision on Landry Fields, who made $5 million this season in the first year of a three-year, $18.75 million deal and spent the campaign proving beyond a doubt that he is not anywhere near a $5 million player. But Fields was not on Toronto’s roster on July 1, 2011, which is the cutoff date.
The Raptors cannot use the provision on DeMar DeRozan, either. Although DeRozan was on the roster on July 1, 2011, he signed a four-year extension in October, making him ineligible. Toronto’s only candidates were Andrea Bargnani or Amir Johnson, both of whom are still under contracts signed before July 1, 2011., but Bargnani is heading to the Knicks in a trade.
Remember, using the amnesty provision creates what the NFL often refers to as “dead money.” So it is unlikely that a penny-pinching owner will use the provision to add more salary, because the exiting player and arriving player (or players) all must still be paid.
Below is a list of all 30 teams and their status regarding the amnesty provision. For teams that have used it, we listed the player, what he is still owed and what waiving him provided. For teams that have not used it, we listed likely candidates and those players’ contracts as of July 1.
HAVEN’T USED AMNESTY
ATLANTA HAWKS: GM Danny Ferry set up his payroll to be clear this summer, and their only eligible candidate is Al Horford, whom they are trying to build around. Will never use it, unless Horford has a career-ending injury.
BOSTON CELTICS: Have not used their amnesty provision. Rajon Rondo is eligible. That ain’t happening. Gerald Wallace is ineligible, and he will be a constant reminder for the next three years of what used to be.