Bernucca: Kobe Bryant is the ideal amnesty candidate

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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.

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Bernucca: Money for nothing, checks for free

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Now that we are about a month into the NBA season, are you disappointed in the performance of a player or two on your favorite team?

Take a number and get in line.

There are dozens of players who are not coming close to meeting expectations this season. And when you factor in their salaries and how much they limit their team’s financial flexibility, it can be downright infuriating.

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Amnesty victims are a playoff team

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While everyone was watching the clock strike 12 on Jeremy Lin on Tuesday night, the bell also tolled Andray Blatchefor the end of this year’s amnesty period.

Teams had until midnight Tuesday to use the amnesty clause – a one-time provision delineated in the new CBA that provides immediate relief from both the salary cap and the luxury tax – and both the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers beat the buzzer, making late decisions to let go of Chris Andersen and Ryan Gomes, respectively.

That brought the total number of teams to use the amnesty clause since the end of the lockout to 15, creating a full NBA roster of players deemed too expensive for their own good.

You know what? That roster would be a playoff team. Easily.

Sure, it’s a little weak at the wing positions, where it could probably use a little more athleticism. And there is considerable injury history that can’t be ignored. But it has plenty of size, depth and veteran experience.

Here’s the breakdown:

POINT GUARD: Chauncey Billups (New York) would start, with Baron Davis (Cleveland) off the bench.

SHOOTING GUARD: Brandon Roy (Portland) would probably get the starting nod over Gilbert Arenas (Orlando), who also could be an emergency third point guard. Charlie Bell (Golden State) would be the team’s fifth guard.

SMALL FORWARD: Weakest position on the team, with Josh Childress (Phoenix), Travis Outlaw (Brooklyn), James Posey (Indiana) and Ryan Gomes (LA Clippers) trying to hold their own against the LeBron Jameses and Kevin Durants of the world. We would probably start Outlaw, the best all-around player in the bunch.

POWER FORWARD: Pretty good health and even better depth, starting with the crafty Luis Scola (Houston). He would be backed up by Elton Brand (Philadelphia) and Andray Blatche (Washington).

CENTER: A three-headed monster of Brendan Haywood (Dallas), Darko Milicic (Minnesota) and Chris Andersen (Denver). Not much offense but very good shot-blocking.

In December, we ran a piece that nominated amnesty candidates for all 30 teams. Of the 15 players who have been victims of the amnesty provision, we correctly predicted 10 of them, allowing for some leeway.

The 15 teams with the amnesty provision still available to them are Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, LA Lakers, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, San Antonio, Toronto and Utah.

The next time any of these teams can consider using the amnesty clause is next summer. The provision must be used on a player who was on his team’s roster on July 1, 2011.

And with players with awful contracts such as Tyrus Thomas, Carlos Boozer, Charlie Villanueva, Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Drew Gooden and John Salmons still out there, you can bet that they will.

Bernucca column: Amnesty Irrational

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By Chris Bernucca

I would prefer not to bring politics into basketball, but I have to wonder if John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell somehow sneaked into the recent NBA labor negotiations and presented the amnesty clause as another one of their magical job-creating proposals.

Those proposals always seem to start with legislation that assures companies and individuals who already have lots of money will either (a) keep all of their money or (b) be given more money. And they always seem to reduce or eliminate programs that would give people without lots of money the possibility of having lots of money.

And that’s what the proposed NBA amnesty clause sounds like.

Last week, John Canzano of the Oregonian reported that most owners would like a shiny, new version of the amnesty clause first used to save them from themselves in 2005.

The 2005 model only provided amnesty from the luxury tax. Teams still had to pay the released player and count his salary against their cap, which limited their financial flexibility, no matter how much money they were saving by avoiding the tax.

This year’s model may have a new standard feature. While the player still has to be paid, his salary will not count against the cap.

You know who it helps? The rich.

It helps teams who are rewarded for a past poor decision with a chance for a do-over. Good-bye, Luke Walton. Hello, Caron Butler.

It helps the rich players who become amnesty cuts, but who still will draw their unjustified salaries while having the freedom to sign a veteran’s minimum deal with a championship contender. You think Rashard Lewis might accept less minutes and shots to play for the Heat?

You know who it hurts? The poor.

It hurts the poor teams, many of whom use the luxury tax threshold as a hard and fast ceiling and don’t have any need for amnesty. The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to figure out how to keep Marc Gasol, not how to get rid of him.

It hurts the poor players already on teams, whose roster spots and playing time are jeopardized by a sudden glut of available good-but-not-great players. Low Williams’ burn would definitely be impacted if Gilbert Arenas wound up in Philadelphia.

It hurts the poor players on the free agent market, who don’t appear nearly as needed now that a veteran with better skills is available at the same price, or even cheaper. Reggie Evans is a nice inexpensive piece for your bench, but not when you can have Elton Brand for the same price.

The report did not have all the particulars of the amnesty clause, which is kind of important, because there are somewhat obvious ways to manipulate it and create additional roster flexibility.

Does a team have to be over the luxury tax in order to release a player? If not, then the Washington Wizards could release Lewis, renounce Yi Jianlian and Josh Howard and free up nearly $40 million in cap room – and change their team in a hurry.

More significantly: Can a team be prevented from re-signing a player it releases? If not, then the San Antonio Spurs could amnesty Tim Duncan (wink, wink), re-sign him to the veteran’s minimum and use the net $20 million cap space to sign a free agent that could help them make one more championship run – someone like Tyson Chandler.

Would the NBA would allow that?

Below is our team-by-team rundown of amnesty candidates, with a few pithy remarks.