Bernucca: Kobe Bryant is the ideal amnesty candidate

There is a sneaky, devious way that the Los Angeles Lakers can re-sign Dwight kobeinjuryHoward, 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.

Sneaky? Yes.

Outside the spirit of the amnesty provision? Absolutely.

Smart? Undoubtedly.

kupchakBesides 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.

(RELATED: Why Acquiring Bargnani is a huge mistake for Knicks)

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.


hawks60ATLANTA 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.


celtics small logoBOSTON 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.


  1. Steve B says

    Chris, I’m not sure I follow your logic (or math).

    Right now, without Dwight, the Lakers have 77M under contract. Signing Dwight to a max deal that starts at around 18M would push them to 95M. Amnestying Kobe drops us to 65M. While that is under the luxury tax, it’s still over the salary cap, meaning we cannot sign FAs like Tyreke/Jennings.

    As far as a sign-and-trade goes… As long as the salaries match up, whether we are over the luxury tax or not is irrelevant. So what’s the point of all of this?

  2. jerry25 says

    I ran the idea of amnestying Kobe, and bringing him back in July 2014 by Larry Coon in May.
    Coon thought too many ifs, but its worth revisiting.

    Kobe claims that by doing surgery before swelling set in, he reduced recovery time and he really seems to believe he can be back by early December. However, even HE must admit it would be better to take off more time and try to return closer to 100%.

    Question is would new Commissioner allow this (collusion) since it would have to be prearranged that Kobe would be returning to Lakers for Vet Min.

    Not clear how you expect Howard to be part of Lakers team? Only without Howard and Kobe’s salary would Lakers have about 48 M in salary (must include Cap Holds), enough for a 10 M FA giving a discount to Lakers. Lakers though should have full MLE and able to use BAE and be free to receive players in S&T. Same for next summer before re-signing Kobe with Vet Min.

    Lakers definitely would enter 2014-2015 season in much better shape and would have avoided the repeater tax.

    We will be hearing more of this option, once Howard agrees to go to Houston in next few days.

    • says


      Yes, you’re right – this summer would have to be sign-and-trades, which aren’t in mix if Kobe is not amnestied. Would think idea of playing with Howard and Nash, then re-adding Kobe also might get someone to accept MLE even though they’re worth more.

      Kobe wouldn’t necessarily have to take vet min, either. It depends upon how many players are signed to one-year deals this summer and how many are actually wanted back. Pau and MWP might be candidates to be renounced, which would get Lakers way under cap. Or they could trade Pau’s expiring deal for other expiring deals or a player(s) who is a good fit.

      It’s a one-year backwards step (although not really; you would think any team with Dwight in middle would be in playoffs) to take quantum leap forward back into title contention. Dwight also has to be on board with it. Thanks for reading.


  3. Ugh says

    Seriously, you’re the 347th writer to have mentioned this idea in the last year, 318 of them since he hurt himself.

    • jerry25 says

      Not exactly. Most of those Amnesty writers didn’t consider Kobe’s sitting out year to rehabilitate and then being a FA again, to re-sign with Lakers for a Minimum.
      I thought of that scenario immediately after Kobe’s injury, since I always expected Howard (and documented) going to Houston, thus giving Lakers plenty of cap space and other advantages.

      • Jon says

        This is silly…. If Kobe does not play this season the Lakers can simply request a year injury exception. This would allow the Lakers to “replace” Kobe and then resign him next July when his current contract runs out.

        “Disabled Player Exception”
        Allows a team that is over the cap to acquire a replacement for a disabled player who will be out for either the remainder of that season (for in-season injuries/deaths) or the next season (if the disability occurs during the offseason). The maximum salary of the replacement player is either 50% of the injured player’s salary, or the mid-level exception for a non-taxpaying team, whichever is less. This exception requires an NBA-designated doctor to verify the extent of the injury.”

  4. @eeeeeeeeel says

    I didn’t see the Cavs anywhere on your list. What’s their amnesty situation? Otherwise, this was a very good, helpful piece. Thanks.


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