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Amnesty clause: Teams’ top candidates

Amnesty clause: Teams’ top candidates

November 01
07:54 2011

With $30 million still owed to him, an amnesty clause might as well be named after Rashard Lewis.

 

Long before the latest teasing ride on the NBA’s lockout roller-coaster, front-office executives around the league began planning for the return of the magic bullet that gives teams a do-over with one regrettable contract.

The “amnesty” clause.

Teams have actually known it was coming since the spring. A clutch of small-market teams are angry about it, too, because it’s a rule that — for all the cries from NBA commissioner David Stern about the need for a new system that improves competitive balance — clearly helps big-market, deep-pocketed teams most.

Yet you can rest assured that every team, whether they like the amnesty concept or not, hasn’t let the up-and-down pattern of labor talks in recent weeks stop them from drafting their own mock amnesty lists. GMs long ago began forecasting who will be joining the free-agent pool through the amnesty hatch, largely because the 2011 version of the provision will go multiple steps beyond the 2005 original.

 

Team-By-Team Cap Savings

How much cash would each team save by cutting its likely target? What would be their projected cap room in 2011-12?Ford: Team-by-team analysis Insider

 

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. Its one-time use, according to The Times, will be restricted to players under contract as of July 1, 2011, with the team making the move, but sources told ESPN.com that a handful of teams are lobbying for the freedom to use it on a player signed down the road, based on the argument that some teams don’t currently have a bad contract on their books but deserve the right to capitalize on the amnesty mechanism to undo a future mistake.

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.

Taking our cue from those GMs who aren’t waiting for the details — as well as our Grantland colleagues Bill Simmons and Jonathan Abrams who couldn’t resist launching into their own amnesty debate in late September — we’ve compiled a team-by-team breakdown of the players each club is most likely to set free. The distinction here is that this list was compiled (A) factoring in the flexibility teams expect to have by “saving” their amnesty clause and (B) by consulting with various team officials who are doing the same research and preparation in advance of the amnesty rule’s return.

 

ATLANTA HAWKS

Most likely amnesty cut: Marvin Williams

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: Sources with knowledge of the Hawks’ thinking insist that the team isn’t ready to give up on Williams. Atlanta apparently still thinks that, at worst, it can deal him away, despite the Hawks’ inability to find any sort of trade market for Williams up to now. The fact that Atlanta’s ownership situation remains highly unsettled, thanks to the latest revelations about Alex Meruelo’s attempt to buy the franchise potentially collapsing, might also buy Williams some more time in the ATL.

Yet most rival teams believe that, at some point in whatever amnesty window is ultimately made official, Williams and the remaining money on his deal ($25 million through 2013-14) have to go. The guy (Billy Knight) who drafted him ahead of Chris Paul when Paul wanted to land with the Hawks is long gone. There can be no conceivable motivation left within the organization to try to camouflage the grave Williams mistakes (drafting him and then extending him) of the past.

 

 

 

BOSTON CELTICS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Jermaine O’Neal

Analysis: Struggling to believe that the Celtics, with such a high payroll, plan to amnesty no one? That’s how they’re leaning as we speak. Boston obviously has a number of highly paid players, but Danny Ainge is by no means entertaining thoughts of cutting loose any of his three veteran stars: Paul PierceKevin Garnett or Ray Allen.

That leaves O’Neal as the most likely Celt to be let go … except that Ainge is known to be quite fond of O’Neal and thus reluctant to abandon him as well. Don’t forget that Boston’s payroll, furthermore, is such that releasing O’Neal through the amnesty mechanism wouldn’t get the Celts under the salary cap. There is undeniable disappointment after O’Neal played in only 24 regular-season games in his first season in Boston and averaged just 5.4 points and 3.7 rebounds, but luxury-tax breathing room is the lone appeal to Ainge and his bosses.

 

 

 

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Most likely amnesty cut: DeSagana Diop

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Matt CarrollBoris DiawCorey Maggette

Analysis: The Bobcats’ roster is teeming with players making too much dough. Question is: Which one should Michael Jordan cast aside?

Diop made nearly $6.5 million last season, played 13 games and averaged 1.3 points and 2.5 rebounds, resulting in a player efficiency rating of just 5.4. With two more seasons totaling $14.2 million left on the books — and with Diop having never posted a PER higher than 12.4 in his nine seasons — Jordan surely won’t be able to resist shedding that contract. There will be calls to oust Carroll, Diaw and Maggette, too, but Diop is one of the easier calls on the board.

 

 

 

CHICAGO BULLS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: The Bulls will be interested in the amnesty process when the season starts, but strictly in terms of the players released by other teams. Grantland’s Bill Simmons graciously suggested that the Bulls use the amnesty provision onCarlos Boozer to create salary-cap space for the potentially loaded 2012 free-agent class, but sources familiar with Chicago’s plans insist that it’s not even a consideration.

Boozer’s debut season in Chicago was an undeniable struggle, but the Bulls like the roster they’ve assembled — filled with recent free-agent signees and players on their rookie contracts — and are focused on adding to it.

 

 

 

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Baron Davis

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Antawn Jamison

Analysis: The Cavs dumping Davis is widely regarded as one of the inevitabilities of the second amnesty wave in NBA history. Especially since the Cavs landed Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in June and still have Ramon Sessionson the roster.

Yet sources close to the situation insist that this decision isn’t as automatic as some would make it out to be. The Cavs are known to not value cap space as much as trade assets. They’ve also been on a mission to acquire future draft picks since the departure of LeBron James. There’s also one more issue: If the Cavs were to burn their amnesty card on Davis, sources say LeBron’s Heat would become an instant suitor and serious threat to sign Baron … which would be painful beyond words for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to stomach.

None of the above, though, has convinced rival teams that Cleveland can resist caving in the end and sending Baron back to free agency. The fact remains that Davis is owed $13.9 million this season, with $12.25 million of his $14.8 million salary in 2012-13 guaranteed even if he’s waived by June 30, 2012. Those are figures even Gilbert can’t ignore, making it a virtual certainty that the Cavs make this move and hand the keys to Irving on Day 1.

 

 

 

DALLAS MAVERICKS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Brendan HaywoodShawn Marion

Analysis: No one made a splashier amnesty move in 2005 than the Mavs’ release of Michael Finley, but Mark Cuban felt he had no choice in that circumstance because of the millions and millions saved in luxury tax by parting company with a longtime franchise cornerstone.

Circumstances are different in the Mavs’ post-championship universe. Going down the amnesty road with Haywood won’t even be considered, sources say, until the Mavs know if they can or can’t keep highly coveted free agent Tyson Chandler. And even if it does manage to hang onto Chandler, Dallas contends that it could have traded Haywood last season if it wanted to and thus should keep Chandler’s backup to see what kind of trade market is out there for him if necessary. Given that the final year on Haywood’s contract — worth $10.5 million in 2015-16 — is fully unguaranteed, Dallas would also argue that his deal isn’t as ghastly as it looks on paper.

In short? There would have to be some unexpected and extreme benefits in terms of 2012 cap space for the Mavs to take this step with either Haywood or Marion, who co-anchored what proved to be a title-worthy perimeter defense alongside Jason Kidd.

 

 

 

DENVER NUGGETS

Most likely amnesty cut: Al Harrington

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: Harrington is on the list of presumed amnesty slam dunks headlined by Rashard Lewis thanks to the $27.7 million left on his contract ($16.5 million guaranteed). Be advised, though, that cutting someone and still paying them huge dollars goes against the eye-on-every-penny nature of Stan Kroenke, whose influence in the organization obviously continues to be felt hugely even though son Josh is technically operating the franchise.

Thanks to the exodus of Nuggets free-agent forwards to China in the offseason — Wilson ChandlerKenyon Martin and J.R. Smith — it’s not inconceivable that Harrington hangs around for a while. The deciding factor figures to be Nene’s impending free agency and whether the resulting flexibility from releasing Harrington could somehow help that cause.

 

 

 

DETROIT PISTONS

Most likely amnesty cut: Charlie Villanueva

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon

Analysis: It’s widely assumed that the Pistons will waive Rip after all of last season’s chaos. He’s scheduled to earn $12.5 million this season and he has a partially guaranteed contract worth $9 million in 2012-13. Throw in the fact that the 33-year-old was seriously unhappy throughout the short-lived John Kuester era, plus Detroit’s longstanding struggles to find a trade taker for him, and amnesty sounds like a natural solution.

Yet sources say the Pistons still believe Hamilton has some trade appeal to contending teams, particularly as he moves closer to the end of his contract. Debatable as rival teams might find that stance, word is Villanueva looms as the more probable amnesty option.

Villanueva has $24 million left on his contract and averaged a mere 3.9 rebounds per game last season while earning $7.5 million. Gordon, meanwhile, is still owed $37 million and coming off a similarly punchless season for a team overflowing with guards. Which one will it be? Someone will go, but cutting ties with either would be an expensive admission for Joe Dumars that the Pistons’ substantial 2009 summer funds were misspent. The latest word is that the Pistons, with new owner Tom Gores still just settling in, have yet to make a firm decision on exactly whom to release.

 

 

 

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Most likely amnesty cut: Charlie Bell

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Andris Biedrins

Analysis: The Grantland duo of Abrams and Simmons helpfully nominatedDavid Lee as an amnesty possibility, but sources with knowledge of Golden State’s thinking openly scoffed at that idea, insisting that the Warriors continue to have a high degree of fondness for Lee, who happens to be one of owner Joe Lacob’s favorite players no matter how daunting his contract figures (owed nearly $69 million through 2015-16) might seem.

Sources likewise insist that the Warriors are leaning against ditching Biedrins, irrespective of the Latvian lefty’s ongoing (and frightening) funk at the free throw line, corresponding reticence to get involved on offense in any meaningful way and the $27 million owed to him through 2013-14. Based on the premise that established NBA big men are always tradable somewhere and routinely overpaid — we’re told Golden State certainly believes the tradability part — Bell is the most likely to go … if excising his $4.1 million expiring contract gives Golden State salary-cap space it can really use once the new cap ceiling is finalized.

 

 

 

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: Don’t look for the Rockets to make use of the amnesty provision unless releasing someone with an expiring contract, which pretty much comes down to Thabeet, provides immediate cap space to clinch the difference-making signing of a free agent. The only players on the roster with substantive contracts are the highly regarded Kevin MartinLuis Scola and Kyle Lowry.

 

 

 

INDIANA PACERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Dahntay Jones

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: James Posey

Analysis: The Pacers’ financial flexibility is as enviable as any team’s in the league. Larry Bird and David Morway have gradually cleared away all of Indiana’s bad contracts and head into the next free-agent period — whenever it arrives — with a ton of cap space. As a result, Indy doesn’t have to amnesty anyone.

But the Pacers are weighing whether to cast aside Jones, who has two years left on his contract compared to Posey’s expiring deal. The ability to wait, however, makes it more likely that Indy saves its amnesty clause for the summer of 2012, since the Pacers could well struggle to spend all the cap space they have going into this season.

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Ryan Gomes

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Randy Foye

Analysis: Sensible as it seems for the Clippers to consider releasing Gomes when he has two seasons and some $4 million in guaranteed money left on his contract, don’t forget who owns this team. Donald Sterling, remember, isn’t exactly known for paying people to stop working for him.

Many veteran Sterling-watchers don’t even think he could have brought himself to use the amnesty provision on the since-traded Baron Davis, whose deal is far richer, so 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 Jordangets 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.

 

 

 

LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Luke Walton

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Metta World PeaceSteve Blake

Analysis: Despite some undeniable exasperation within the organization after the former Ron Artest’s erratic play in 2010-11 — followed up by his all-too-real name change to Metta World Peace — sources say L.A. is targeting Walton (owed $11.5 million this season and next season) as its amnesty player.

The only apparent disclaimer is the possibility that the Lakers could double dip in terms of savings in the form of injury relief should Walton elect to retire, which would then make a subsequent amnesty divorce from the mercurial Metta hard to resist financially. One team insider said that Walton, though just 31, has indeed begun to contemplate retirement because of a debilitating back condition, with Walton himself telling ESPN.com’s Andy Katz earlier this summer that he’s seen multiple doctors who have advised him to stop playing. So stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: Owner Michael Heisley and GM Chris Wallace have trimmed the fat over the past few seasons to the point that the Grizzlies legitimately don’t have a bad contract on their roster. The far more pressing question in Memphis is how the Grizz are going to find a way to re-sign restricted free agent Marc Gasol while still maintaining the lean payroll Heisley has called for in recent seasons. That’s led some to speculate that perhaps even Rudy Gay might be an amnesty candidate. But that’s a total fantasy, according to sources with knowledge of the Grizzlies’ thinking.

The Grizz believe that, had Gay been healthy, they would’ve been in the Western Conference finals last season. So the last thing they’re going to do is set a potential All-Star free, even if some around the league still question whether Gay can justify the $69 million left on his deal. Beyond letting unrestricted free agent Shane Battier walk away, Heisley has left the distinct impression that he’s going to bring last season’s Cinderella team back.

 

 

 

MIAMI HEAT

Most likely amnesty cut: Mike Miller

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Eddie House

Analysis: The Heat are headed for a t-o-u-g-h decision on Miller. Under normal circumstances, there’s no way Heat owner Micky Arison would green-light the release of a player who’s owed $24 million over the next four seasons. But Arison’s Heat, facing those championship-or-bust expectations after their Finals flameout in June, live in a different world than most other franchises. With Miami bound for luxury-tax territory next season and perhaps even this season, and a more onerous tax system coming in, Arison and Pat Riley will have to take a hard look at letting Miller go.

Over the next three seasons that their three cornerstones are under contract, carving out the financial flexibility to be able to use the midlevel exception is vital to the Heat, who have traded away most of their draft picks and don’t have many other trade assets. Without a long-term answer at point guard or center and with perhaps the thinnest bench in the league, using the midlevel might be the only way to address any of those needs unless former All-Stars such asVince Carter or Grant Hill are willing to sign for bargain-basement prices.

The Heat are fond of Miller and would prefer to wait at least a year before deciding whether to use amnesty on him. It remains to be seen if Miller’s three surgeries (both thumbs, then his left shoulder) since signing with them emerge as a factor that works against him.

 

 

 

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Most likely amnesty cut: Beno Udrih

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Drew Gooden

Analysis: After trades to undo the ill-fated acquisitions of Corey Maggette and John Salmons, Milwaukee’s amnesty choice comes down to two players: Drew Gooden or Beno Udrih. And while Gooden’s salary figures (he’s due $26 million over the next four seasons) tend to jump off the page, sources close to the situation insist that Milwaukee plans to keep him over the Slovenian point guard.

The Bucks badly need rebounding and frontcourt depth, whereas Brandon Jennings is the clear starter at the point and both Shaun Livingston and Keyon Dooling play the position. So look for Udrih, acquired in a draft-day deal and coming off a fairly useful season with the Kings, to wind up on the free-agent market.

 

 

 

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Darko MilicicBrad MillerNikola Pekovic,Luke RidnourMartell Webster

Analysis: The Wolves might be a terrible team but they don’t currently have any egregious contracts on their books. Darko haters may beg to differ, but the Wolves still believe in the enigmatic big man from Serbia. Although management might privately acknowledge that the nearly $15 million he’s owed over the next three seasons is high, Minnesota likewise believes it would miss Darko’s interior presence and shot-blocking ability on a nightly basis. And who would replace him?

You’re likewise bound to hear Ridnour’s name as an amnesty possibility in the wake of Ricky Rubio‘s arrival, but someone is going to have to mentor the Spaniard. And if Rubio shines right away, there will still be a trade market for Ridnour. So there’s no amnesty urgency in ‘Sota.

 

 

 

NEW JERSEY NETS

Most likely amnesty cut: Travis Outlaw

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Johan Petro

Analysis: Signing Outlaw to a five-year, $35 million deal was one of the most head-scratching moves of the summer of 2010. Outlaw rewarded the Nets with the worst season he’s ever had, registering an abysmal PER of 8.8 last season. The Nets, as a result, have to be relishing the return of the amnesty clause as much as anyone.

While their primary focal point is summer of 2012, when they’ll try to re-sign Deron Williams andland Dwight Howard alongside him, they’ll be happy in the meantime to take a step in the right direction by removing Outlaw’s remaining $24 million from the books.

 

 

 

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: The yet-to-be-sold, league-owned Hornets have a mere five players under contract. They thus have, by all accounts, zero appetite to exercise amnesty for anyone. That includes Trevor Ariza, who’s still highly regarded within the organization despite a subpar season in 2010-11 and a contract with almost $22 million remaining over the next three seasons.

As for Emeka Okafor … guess again. With fellow big men David West and Carl Landry both headed for free agency? Okafor is a Hornets cornerstone now.

 

 

 

NEW YORK KNICKS

Most likely amnesty cut: Renaldo Balkman

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Ronny Turiaf

Analysis: Looking at the Knicks’ post-Donnie Walsh roster — after he shed contract after contract without the benefit of amnesty — it’s downright lean. Balkman doesn’t make much money, but no one whom the Knicks would seriously consider waiving really does.

They like Turiaf’s size and toughness far too much to let him go, so the expendable Balkman appears to be the lone Knick in danger, but only because every little bit of salary-cap space helps for the Knicks’ plans to make another summer splash in 2012.

 

 

 

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Nate Robinson

Analysis: Robinson is the only Thunder player that you could even conceive of them ushering through the amnesty exit door. But then you remember who we’re talking about here. OKC paying someone not to play? Laughable.

Based on our latest info, Team Presti prefers to keep Robinson’s $4.5 million expiring contract around for potential trades. Otherwise? The Thunder’s next bad contract will be their first.

 

 

 

ORLANDO MAGIC

Most likely amnesty cut: Gilbert Arenas

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Hedo Turkoglu

Analysis: Unlike in Washington, where the prospect of cutting ties with Rashard Lewis comes with huge salary-cap benefits, Orlando can’t create any significant cap room by exiling Arenas. So why would the Magic pay off the $62.4 million left on Arenas’ contract through 2013-14 when there’s little immediate financial benefit to them?

Here’s why: Amnesty 2011 gives Magic GM Otis Smith an opportunity to undo a gamble on his good buddy Gil that backfired spectacularly and take at least some of the considerable tension out of the air after the toxic end to last season in that first-round exit to Atlanta … at a time when the weight of Dwight Howard’s 2012 free agency happens to hang over all of Central Florida. The Magic, remember, have a deep-pocketed financier in Rich DeVos that would be on the short list of NBA owners who could withstand the huge financial hit required to send Arenas away. So it’s going to happen. It’s just of matter of when.

 

 

 

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Andres Nocioni

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Elton Brand

Analysis: Scrap any thoughts you have about the Sixers ditching Elton Brand, because sources with knowledge of Philly’s thinking have made it clear that it’s not an option, even with $35.2 million left on Brand’s contract through 2012-13. Sixers coach Doug Collins is Brand’s loudest supporter in the organization and will inevitably convince new owner Josh Harris and anyone else he has to that the focus should be on Elton’s passable 2010-11 production as opposed to the big money he’s still owed.

Most insiders surveyed believe that Nocioni, due to earn $6.7 million in 2011-12, will be the Sixer to go. But Philly could try to buy Nocioni out instead, since the Argentine has expressed interest in finishing his career back home or in Europe.

 

 

 

PHOENIX SUNS

Most likely amnesty cut: Josh Childress

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Mickael PietrusHakim Warrick

Analysis: For all the understandable attention on Childress as a likely amnesty casualty, all available signals suggest Phoenix is in wait-and-see mode. As bad as Childress’ $34 million contract looks right now — after he averaged just five points per game last season and struggled for court time — sources say that the Suns haven’t committed to anything beyond waiving Vince Carter to cash in on the cap-friendly final season of Carter’s contract and move out of the luxury tax.

The Suns have less than $30 million committed to salaries in 2012-13, so they have some flexibility even if Childress hangs around a bit longer. So it all adds up to an interesting call for Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby — who happens to be Childress’ former agent — but not nearly as interesting as the biggest conundrum in the desert: Whether or not to tradeSteve Nash before Nash’s contract expires in June.

 

 

 

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

Most likely amnesty cut: Brandon Roy

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Marcus Camby

Analysis: If there’s a more interesting amnesty conundrum out there in 2011, show us. Because of Roy’s stature in the organization and the community, it’s still hard to imagine Portland going through with letting him go. Rewind to his franchise-player flashes in Game 4 of the Dallas series and it gets even harder. The reality, though, is that Roy has deteriorating knees, more than $50 million guaranteed left on a cap-clogging contract that runs through 2014-15 and little else on last season’s highlight reel apart from that Game 4 eruption

Although there’s an undeniable sense in Rip City that the Blazers will be tempted to give Roy one more season to regain something resembling his old form, one rival exec insists that “Roy would be gone for sure if [Rich] Cho was still there” … and that it’s only a matter of time even without Cho in charge.

Cutting ties with Roy, expensive as it’ll be, is the only way they can truly start over. The Blazers, if they kept him for even one more season, would have a payroll approaching $75 million when the season starts.

 

 

 

SACRAMENTO KINGS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely not to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: Francisco Garcia, John Salmons

Analysis: The Kings’ need for Garcia, now that they’ve drafted Jimmer Fredette, is questionable at best, especially at the steep price of $18.3 million over the next three seasons. But there’s going to be a minimum salary level in the forthcoming labor deal that Sacramento would conceivably struggle to hit as the roster is presently constituted unless big signings or trades are on the way when camps and a compressed transaction period eventually commence. So it seems safe to presume that Garcia and John Salmons will have to start the new season with the Kings, who fall into the group of teams loudly pushing for an amnesty clause that can be saved for later usage.

 

 

 

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Most likely amnesty cut: Richard Jefferson

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: The Spurs, as ESPN.com reported Friday, are leading the push for an amnesty clause that can be “pocketed” for later use. Which helps explain the loud rumblings in circulation about the Spurs hoping that they can avoid casting Jefferson aside in spite of the $9.3 million, $10.2 million and $11 million that RJ’s scheduled to earn over the next three seasons.

It makes sense that the Spurs want to keep fielding the strongest team possible before Tim Duncan’s window shuts for real, but their hand could well be forced. If the new luxury-tax scale in the next labor deal is super punitive, keeping Jefferson is to going to be financially crippling for a team with a payroll that would still be above $65 million in 2011-12 without him.

 

 

 

TORONTO RAPTORS

Most likely amnesty cut: None

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza

Analysis: Sources with knowledge of Toronto’s thinking say that the Raptors’ up-to-the-minute plans call for hanging onto their amnesty clause for down-the-road usage. Calderon might have more than $20 million left on his deal through 2012-13, but he’d most likely be the Raptors’ starting point guard if the season started tomorrow. So Toronto’s not giving him away.

As for Kleiza and his three remaining seasons with the Raps at $4.6 million annually, Toronto will undoubtedly wait to see what sort of cap breaks teams get with injured players in the next labor deal before eating that contract. The Raps could well save a similar amount of money on Kleiza, who had knee surgery in February, through insurance mechanisms compared to the amnesty provision. Which means there’s no obvious Raptor to be asked to head for the border.

 

 

 

UTAH JAZZ

Most likely amnesty cut: Mehmet Okur

How likely to use amnesty this season? Jump ball

Other amnesty candidates: Raja Bell

Analysis: This will be a challenging call for the Jazz. Injuries kept Okur from contributing last season and, at 32, there are questions about how much he has left. With the team in rebuilding mode, Al Jefferson manning the middle and lottery pick Enes Kanter ready to contribute, it can be argued that Utah no longer needs him.

Yet there are strong indications that the Jazz are weighing whether it’s wiser to keep Okur for his potential trade value if nothing else, since there will always be a market for big men who (when healthy) can spread the floor. If the Jazz elect to keep the Turk, releasing Bell would save them about $5 million over two seasons.

 

 

 

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Most likely amnesty cut: Rashard Lewis

How likely to use amnesty this season? Slam dunk

Other amnesty candidates: None

Analysis: After the Magic grossly overpaid him in an attempt to win an NBA championship and then used his monster salary to trade for Gilbert Arenas, Lewis has been synonymous with the league’s new amnesty rule since we started hearing about it back in the spring. That conveniently overlooks Lewis’ prominent role in helping Orlando reach the NBA Finals in 2009, but facts are facts: He’s an amnesty lock some two years later.

And that’s because the Wiz, once they shed the nearly $30 million in guaranteed money left on Lewis’ deal, can instantly become a major player in both the free-agent and trade markets. Taking your time with the amnesty clause is a nice new luxury to have, but there’s no need when there’s an immediate payoff of substantial cap space to be had.

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Abbas Sakataa

Abbas Sakataa

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