Since the NBA ratified the new CBA, the buzzword around town has been “amnesty”. It’s dominated any and every NBA conversation. But judging by the number of people who’ve hit me up requesting I explain the amnesty clause, there seems to be some confusion among the masses about exactly what the hell amnesty is and how it works. Here is my attempt to answer all of your questions related to the amnesty clause in the most laymanest layman terms ever.
What is the amnesty clause?
Well, it’s the “Allan Houston Rule“ with a twist. Back in ’05, teams were allowed to waive one player’s contract. The player would still get paid, and it would still count against the cap, but they wouldn’t get hit with a luxury tax. Now with the amnesty clause 2.0, not only do teams have the opportunity to dump a player and his bloated contract, but this time it DOES NOT count against the cap and teams also DO NOT have to pay luxury tax on that salary. Teams no longer are held hostage by a player’s bad contract. Instead the one-time get out of jail free card provide teams much needed relief and the license to acquire another player that will add true value to the team’s championship push.
Players who were signed prior to 2011-2012. In other words, Golden State just signed Kwame Brown to a one-year, $7 million deal. They will not be able to amnesty him once they realize how incredibly dumb of a move that was.
Once the player is waived, then what?
Teams with cap space place silent bids for the player and the highest bidder wins, similar to an auction. A team can claim a player at a much lower rate than what they were under contract for. If a player goes unclaimed he becomes a free agent and is then free to sign with any team. One of the first players to be amnestied was Chauncey Billups. The NY Knicks waived him which opened up cap space for them to acquire Tyson Chandler. Sweet baby Jesus! (I just did a little Antoine Walker shimmy in my chair as I typed that, by the way.) But I digress because someone not jumping for joy is Chauncey Billups. Unhappy about being amnestied, Billups released a statement via his agent warning teams he was only interested in playing for an NBA championship contender. He’s subsequently been claimed by the LA Clippers. Yes, probably one of the teams he was trying to warn off. But the NBA isn’t having it. They’ve since told Billups he better report to the team or else they’ll take action against him. That’s the downside of the amnesty clause, from a player’s perspective.
Do teams without cap space have a chance to claim an amnestied player?
Yes, but only after the player has gone unclaimed and is declared a free agent. But even then, teams are limited to using the veteran’s minimum on the player. So, if a team has already acquired another player using the veteran’s minimum then they’re out of luck.
Why the silent auction bidding?
- This prevents players from flocking to teams like the Lakers or Heat. Instead, non-contenders have a better shot at claiming players that wouldn’t have entertained them, otherwise, at a fraction of the price; hence Billups’s attempt at circumventing the system.
OK, so if the contract doesn’t count against the cap, then who’s responsible for paying the player? His old team? New team? The league? Who?
- Both. His old and new team split the tab. The new team covers the portion they bid for, and the old team pays the balance.
How many players are teams allowed to amnesty?
- One player per team, only.
Is there a deadline by which teams must exercise their amnesty rights?
- Yes, there’s a seven day window. If teams expect to use the amnesty clause this season, they must use it by Friday, 12/16. Otherwise, they can save it to be used for another season through 2015-2016. However, each team only gets the right to amnesty one player through this period.
UPDATE: When the amnesty clause was initial set in place, the deadline was 12/16 because of the shortened season following the lockout. However, since the NBA’s resumed operating on its normal schedule, the annual amnesty deadline is July 17 at 11:59pm.
Can teams trade players they’ve claimed via amnesty or are they stuck with them?
Yes, teams can trade their newly acquired players but must wait 30-days before doing so.
Can a team reclaim a player they amnestied?
- No, once they sever ties, that’s it.
Who’s been amnestied so far?
NBA.com keeps an updated Amnesty Tracker of every player amnestied on its site. You can also see which teams have used their one-time get out of a bad contract card and which haven’t. Check it out here.