More flexible amnesty clause on way?

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
11:43
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
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We’ve known since the spring that a new amnesty clause was coming in the NBA.

But the 2011 version is going to be different.

Very different, in fact, from its 2005 predecessor.

In ‘05, teams received only luxury-tax relief on amnesty players. In 2011, according to sources close to the negotiations, 75 percent of a player’s contract value will not count against the salary cap when shed via amnesty.

And there could be more wrinkles.

Sources say that there’s a determined push led by San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt to allow teams to have at least two years to decide whether or not to amnesty one player, with multiple sources telling ESPN.com this week that they believe the concept -- with restrictions that are still being haggled over -- has indeed won sufficient support to be included in the new labor deal.

Six years ago, teams had only two weeks to decide whether to use the amnesty clause or lose it forever. Now? There is a growing likelihood that teams will be able to “save” their amnesty clause through next season, or perhaps beyond.

Some teams want to restrict amnesty eligibility to the players on a team’s roster when the lockout ends. Others want the freedom to use it on any player they acquire over, say, a three- or five-year span, arguing that there are teams out there which currently don’t have an ugly contract to shed but should have the right to atone for a future mistake.

The latter sentiment understandably upsets some small-market teams, who argue that the amnesty clause was only ever intended to help teams get away from luxury-tax territory. The fear among some execs is that having amnesty rights on a player you can acquire later could turn the clause into a huge competitive advantage for deep-pocketed teams that can offer to absorb a bad contract in a down-the-road deal and then wipe it away.

But all those finer points, sources say, are still in flux. They are among the many system issues that the sides are trying to smooth out in the shadow of the big-ticket discussion on the annual revenue split.

The certainty, at this point, is that there will be an amnesty clause in the next labor deal ... along with a rising belief that there will be a multiyear window to use it.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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