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NBA amnesty: Only 15 teams have used the get-out-of-jail-free card

by Berry Tramel Modified: June 25, 2013 at 4:40 pm •  Published: June 25, 2013

The actual period is fast approaching for one of NBA fans’ favorite topics: the amnesty clause, which allows teams to write off an unfavorable contract as far as the salary cap and luxury tax is concerned.

Around these parts, that means Kendrick Perkins. Lots of Thunder fans want OKC to cut loose Perkins, not so much to save money but to save them the frustration of needless turnovers. It also would save them from having to watch so much basketball deep into the playoffs, since Perk’s is one reason why the Thunder remains an NBA contender, but that’s another story.

This story is about the amnesty clause. What it is and who has used it. So a refresher. This is straight out of Larry Coon’s great website on frequently asked questions about the NBA salary cap, which you can find here.

“Amnesty is a one-time opportunity for teams to release one player via the waiver process … and remove him from their team salary and luxury tax computations. For a player to be eligible for the Amnesty provision, he must be on his team’s roster continuously from July 1, 2011 to the date he is amnestied, without any new contract, extension, renegotiation or other amendment to his contract in the meantime.

“Players who were waived prior to July 1, 2011 and are still receiving guaranteed salary are also eligible. Teams cannot amnesty players they sign, receive in trade, extend, renegotiate, or otherwise amend after July 1, 2011.”

For such a popular concept among the fans, only 15 of the NBA’s 30 franchises have used the amnesty clause. Here are the teams that have used the amnesty clause, with how much they were scheduled to learn:

Cleveland: Baron Davis, 2011-12, $14.85 million.

Dallas: Brendan Haywood, 2012-13, $21 million over three years (claimed by Charlotte, which bid $16.67 million).

Denver: Chris Andersen, 2012-13, $9.3 million over two years.

Golden State: Charlie Bell, 2011-12, $4.1 million.

Houston: Luis Scola, 2012-13, $17.1 million over three years (claimed by Phoenix, which bid $13.52 million).

Indiana: James Posey, 2011-12, $7.6 million.

LA Clippers: Ryan Gomes, 2012-13, $4 million.

Minnesota: Darko Millicic, 2012-13, $5.2 million.

New York: Chauncey Billups, 2011-12, $12.2 million (claimed by Clippers, who bid $2 million).

New Jersey: Travis Outlaw, 2011-12, $12 million over three years (claimed by Sacramento, which bid $12 million).

Orlando: Gilbert Arena, 2011-12, $60.8 million over three years.

Philadelphia: Elton Brand, 2012-13, $16.1 million (claimed by Dallas, which bid $2.1 million).

Phoenix: Josh Childress, 2012-13, $20.9 million over three years.

Portland: Brandon Roy, 2011-12, $64.4 million over four years.

Washington: Andray Blatche, 2012-13, $23.2 million over three years.

Coon’s website says “teams have been known to check with other teams in order to ‘test the waters’ prior to deciding whether to amnesty a player, and only amnesty the player if another team indicates it would assume a significant portion of the player’s salary in a partial waiver claim.”

Here’s more on the amnesty clause:

“Amnesty can be used prior to the 2011-12 through 2015-16 seasons, although teams may use the provision only once in total — not once per season. For the 2011-12 season the Amnesty provision was available from December 9-16, 2011. For the 2012-13 through 2015-16 seasons it is available for the first seven days that follow the July moratorium. The waiver period for amnestied players is 48 hours.

“Players waived using this provision are not counted in team salary or luxury tax computations, except for the following:

* Amnestied players continue to count toward the minimum team payroll.

* Amnestied players continue to count toward the players’ league-wide revenue guarantee.

“As with any other waived player, teams must continue to pay the guaranteed base salary of their amnestied players. The player’s full salary comes off the team salary as soon as he is placed on waivers.

“Also as with any other waived player, another team may place a waiver claim in order to acquire the player before he clears waivers. But amnesty is different from the normal waiver process in that it allows teams to make either a full or partial waiver claim. When a team makes a full waiver claim it acquires the player, assumes his full contract, and pays all remaining salary obligations (and the waiving team has no further salary obligation to the player). Full waiver claims have precedence over partial waiver claims — if one team makes a full waiver claim and another makes a partial waiver claim, the team making the full waiver claim is awarded the player. If multiple teams make full waiver claims, the player is awarded to the team with the worst record.

“A partial waiver claim is a bid for a single dollar amount. If no team makes a full waiver claim, the player is awarded to the team submitting the highest bid in a partial waiver claim. If multiple teams bid the same amount, the player is awarded to the team with the worst record. When a team is awarded a player via a partial waiver claim, it pays the following portion of the player’s salary:

* The amount of their bid, spread pro rata across all remaining guaranteed years of the player’s contract;

* All non-base compensation, such as bonuses;

* 100% of the player’s salary in non-guaranteed seasons.

“The waiving team continues to pay the remainder of the player’s salary — any portion that is not paid by the claiming team. For example, the New York Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups in 2011 with one year remaining on his contract for $14.2 million. The Los Angeles Clippers submitted the only bid, for $2,000,032. The Clippers paid Billups the amount of their bid, with the Knicks responsible for the remaining $12,199,968. This system (plus the rules for minimum bids, as described below) helps ensure that the waiving team doesn’t have to pay the player more than they would have paid had they waived their player without amnesty.

“The minimum bid for a partial waiver claim is whichever of the following is larger:

* The sum of the player’s minimum salary for all remaining years of his contract, except for completely non-guaranteed seasons (seasons with 0% salary protection) which are ignored for this purpose.

* The sum of all non-guaranteed salary in partially-guaranteed seasons.

“For example, if a 10+ year veteran is amnestied in 2012 with three years remaining on his contract at $10 million each season, and his salary is guaranteed 100% in 2012-13, 60% in 2013-14, and 0% in 2014-15, then the minimum bid for a partial waiver claim is $4 million — the unprotected amount in the partly-protected 2013-14 season, which is larger than the sum of the minimum salaries for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Since the 2014-15 season is completely unprotected, it is ignored when determining the minimum bid amount.

“If instead the above player’s salary was 100% guaranteed in all three seasons, the minimum bid amount would be $4,200,178 — the sum of the minimum salaries for a 10+ year veteran for those three seasons.

“In order to submit a bid for a partial waiver claim, the bidding team must have cap room equivalent to the portion of their bid that would be charged to team salary in that season, plus the amount of any likely bonuses for that season. If necessary, teams can create this cap room by waiving non-guaranteed players, but not by making trades. The team must make the cap room available immediately upon being awarded the amnesty claim.

“An amnestied player’s Bird clock does not reset when he is awarded to the team with the winning bid. In addition, for the purpose of the Bird exceptions his prior salary is considered to be his full season salary. For example, if a player with a $10 million salary is amnestied, claimed by another team for $1 million, and subsequently becomes an Early Bird free agent, his free agent cap hold is $13 million (130% of $10 million), and his team can re-sign him for up to 175% of his full $10 million salary (subject to maximum salary restrictions) using the Early Bird exception.

“The waiving team may not re-sign or re-acquire the player for the length of his contract (which includes seasons following an early termination option, but does not include seasons following an option), and the claiming team is prohibited from trading the player until the following July 1.”

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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