The perpetual NBA amnesty machine

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The amnesty clause from the 2011 lockout deal is just about expired. But don't worry, another one is around the corner.

We're about out of NBA amnesty clause candidates this time around after the Lakers sent Metta World Peace packing. There are a couple of players who might be holding onto their seats before the deadline to use the clause in 2013 hits, but it's unlikely any other major players (Mike Miller, Drew Gooden, John Salmons) will be waived at the last minute. There's always next year, especially for Gooden.

But really, there's always the next collective bargaining agreement. The last two deals between the league and the players' union included amnesty provisions. I'm guess this will be a trend and we'll get another one in 2017, when the next CBA will be negotiated. If it is indeed a trend -- something the NBA would never admit -- then beginning next year in free agency, we'll need to look at deals through an additional prism.

That's because the final year of four-year deals signed in 2014 would, in theory, be eligible for the next amnesty clause. That fourth season on 2014 deals becomes, more or less, unguaranteed for salary cap purposes, barring a change of course for NBA owners.

The amnesty provision is a funny thing, considering the last two CBAs have been all about cutting owner costs. The amnesty clause doesn't cut owner costs for all who partake at all -- players still get paid their full salary, minus any salary picked up by a new team. And using the amnesty clause in most cases allows a team to sign an additional player, adding costs for that particular owner, though not owners as a group. (In the World Peace example, it really does cut costs because it cuts the Lakers' luxury tax burden.) (Note, added July 16: this paragraph previously implied that total costs to owners were increased through use of amnesty. It's more complicated than that when you factor in reduced luxury tax payments.)

So the owners will heap on the doom and gloom about rising costs, the players will fight back, and at the end of the day the deal to avoid or end the lockout will include a clause that allows players to make all of their money while getting their contracts wiped off of the cap sheets. In retrospect, it seems that a number of general managers took that into account back in 2010 as the lockout approached. That was the wildest free agency period in memory well beyond the LeBron-Wade-Bosh-Amar'e tier. The Gooden, Salmons, Darko Milicic and Carlos Boozer deals were signed. Did the GMs who stretched for those deals know they'd have an opportunity if needed to erase them? Darko was waived under amnesty after two years. Salmons was stunningly traded on his bad deal. Boozer and Gooden survive. Did the prospect of a second amnesty clause embolden GMs to reach?

That could and should be the case as we approach 2017. You'd expect 2015 to be the hottest year for it -- that would allow teams to "erase" the back half of one 4-year deal when the clause likely arrives. Right now we're in an amnesty dead zone: you can't sign an outright free agent deal long enough to be amnesty-eligible in 2017. Chris Paul is the only 2013 free agent contract that would be eligible under a 2017 amnesty rule. (Nikola Pekovic could join him.) The list will grow in 2014, and blow up to include most of the league in 2015 and 2016.

And the perpetual amnesty machine will roll on. I wonder if we'll ever get a player amnestied twice in one career.

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