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The New CBA: Amnesty

John Rohde Published: December 3, 2011

Today’s topic in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement:


2005 CBA: One player could be waived prior to the 2005-06 season. Salary of waived player did not count toward luxury tax.

2011 CBA: One player can be waived prior to the start of any season, throughout the length of the new CBA agreement. Only one player can be amnestied and it must be from a previously existing contract. Contracts signed under the 2011 CBA are not eligible. The salary of the waived player will not count toward the salary cap or luxury tax. Teams with cap room can submit competing offers to acquire an amnestied player at a reduced rate before free agency and that player can sign with any team.

Definition: Amnesty is defined as “a general pardon granted by a government, especially for political offenses.” The NBA definition could be something along the lines of “a delete button for organizations that feel they’re paying a player too darn much.” In the NBA version of Monopoly, this is the equivalent of a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. It’s also an opportunity for a player to get out of a bad situation at full salary. Teams with cap room can benefit greatly from amnesty by being able to submit a competing offer to claim an amnestied player at a reduced rate. Example: If Cleveland uses its amnesty provision on guard Baron Davis ($28.8 million for two years), a team that is $5 million below the salary cap can submit a $5 million offer to acquire Davis’ contract. If that offer is the highest, the team acquires Davis and is responsible for $5 million of his salary, with Cleveland responsible for the balance ($23.8 million).

Winners: Tough-luck owners, dumb owners. Sadly, amnesty penalizes teams that have chosen wisely, invested well and don’t need to be bailed out (see Thunder). Immediate executors of the amnesty clause figure to include Portland (Brandon Roy), Orlando (Gilbert Arenas), Cleveland (Davis), Detroit (Richard Hamilton), New Jersey (Travis Outlaw) and Charlotte (DeSagana Diop). Washington is so out of whack, the Wizards might choose to keep Rashard Lewis just to reach the increased league minimum. The benefits of amnesty are greater now than in 2005 because 100 percent of the player’s salary is removed for both cap and tax purposes. Also, rather than having to use amnesty this season, teams can save it for later use throughout the length of this new CBA. Teams like the Thunder will have an amnesty hole card, but likely will never reap the same financial break of tough-luck owners and dumb owners.

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