The NBA’s New Amnesty Clause Explained, ‘Cause You’ve Asked!

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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.

Who’s eligible?

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.

-@itsshanarenee

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About Shana Renee

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Woman + Entrepreneur + Blogger + Educator + Sports Head; a sports addict's creative cure to #allsportseverything. #Jets #Knicks #Yankees

  • Ben

    Good article – really helpful in helping me understand how the vagaries of this amnesty system work.

    But I can’t find any evidence that Richard Jefferson or James Posey have actually been amnestied, are you sure you have that right? In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw a statement from San Anotnio stating that contrary to rumour, they had not amnestied Jefferson.

  • Shane

    Once the players clears waivers and signs with a team of his choice, for example Baron Davis, is the new contract he receives deducted from his previous one, or does the player now have 2 contracts?

    • S. Renee

      Hi Shane- The new contract is deducted from the previous one. So, sticking w/ your BD example, the Knicks signed him to $2.5 million, but he’s still owed about $27 mil from the Cavs, which he’s guaranteed. Although the Cavs still have to pay a player that’s no longer on their team, they’re not handcuffed like the Knicks were back when they signed Allan Houston to that huge contract. Or Eddy Curry or Jerome James…and on and on and on, for example. The benefit to the Cavs letting BD go is that the $27 mil now comes off the books and they’re free to make other moves. I hope that answered your question. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Rob

    If a team wants to amnesty a second contract (ie/ Knicks, Amare’ Stoudemire), can they trade a player or draft pick to another NBA team for that team’s amnesty rights?

    • S. Renee

      Hi Rob- sorry for the late reply! Somehow I’m just seeing this. I’m sure you’ve received your answer by now, but if you haven’t here goes: teams are only allowed to amnesty one player total. For example, the Knicks amnestied Billups last season and subsequently signed Chandler. Therefore, they can not also amnesty Stoudemire. I wish they could, but unfortunately we’re stuck with him. That’s why it’s important for teams to a) not sign players to “ridiculous” contracts to begin with and b) choose the amnestied player wisely. Teams have until 2015-2016 to take advantage of this one-time opportunity. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Jamaal

    If a player gets amnestied an they clear waivers an are not claimed by a team at silent auction. They become a free agent an sign with a team of there choice. Do they then have 2 contracts?

  • Mykel Tulloch

    What if the player does not want to play for the team which won the bid or has a preference to play for another team does he have any say in who he plays for??

    • itsshanarenee

      Hey Mykel- Nope. Players have no say in the matter other than to retire. If you remember when they first created the amnesty clause in 2011, Chauncey Billups was amnestied by the Knicks and released a statement via his agent saying he only wanted to play for a championship contender. He preferred to go unclaimed and through the free agency process than to be signed by a scrub team. But, David Stern responded and said he had to cooperate or else. He was eventually picked up by the Clippers who traded for CP3 two days later, so it worked out in the end. Kinda…b/c then Billups suffered a torn Achilles injury which forced him to miss most of the season. Hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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