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Monday, October 31, 2011
Amnesty clause: Teams' top candidates

By Marc Stein and Chad Ford

Rashard Lewis
With $30 million still owed to him, an amnesty clause might as well be named after Rashard Lewis.

Long before the latest teasing ride on the NBA's lockout roller-coaster, front-office executives around the league began planning for the return of the magic bullet that gives teams a do-over with one regrettable contract.

The "amnesty" clause.

Teams have actually known it was coming since the spring. A clutch of small-market teams are angry about it, too, because it's a rule that -- for all the cries from NBA commissioner David Stern about the need for a new system that improves competitive balance -- clearly helps big-market, deep-pocketed teams most.

Yet you can rest assured that every team, whether they like the amnesty concept or not, hasn't let the up-and-down pattern of labor talks in recent weeks stop them from drafting their own mock amnesty lists. GMs long ago began forecasting who will be joining the free-agent pool through the amnesty hatch, largely because the 2011 version of the provision will go multiple steps beyond the 2005 original.

In 2005, teams received only luxury-tax relief on amnesty players. In 2011, according to sources close to the negotiations, there will be significant cap relief in addition to tax relief: 75 percent of a player's contract value will not count against the salary cap when shed via amnesty. also reported Friday that San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt has been at the forefront of a successful push to allow teams to have at least two years to decide whether or not to release one player via amnesty, as opposed to the '05 version that gave clubs two weeks in August to use or lose the amnesty option forever.

The New York Times and Sports subsequently reported Saturday that the owners and players have reached tentative agreement on an amnesty provision that will allow teams to release one player -- with pay -- at any point during the life of the next collective bargaining agreement. Its one-time use, according to The Times, will be restricted to players under contract as of July 1, 2011, with the team making the move, but sources told that a handful of teams are lobbying for the freedom to use it on a player signed down the road, based on the argument that some teams don't currently have a bad contract on their books but deserve the right to capitalize on the amnesty mechanism to undo a future mistake.

Because negotiations between the league and union are ongoing, none of the finer points are binding yet. The only certainty at this point, sources say, is that a multi-year amnesty clause will be included in the new deal ... with a presumed restriction forbidding the use of the amnesty clause on players acquired via future trades when the league resumes business.

Taking our cue from those GMs who aren't waiting for the details -- as well as our Grantland colleagues Bill Simmons and Jonathan Abrams who couldn't resist launching into their own amnesty debate in late September -- we've compiled a team-by-team breakdown of the players each club is most likely to set free. The distinction here is that this list was compiled (A) factoring in the flexibility teams expect to have by "saving" their amnesty clause and (B) by consulting with various team officials who are doing the same research and preparation in advance of the amnesty rule's return.

Ford: Salary-cap space for each team Insider's Brian Windhorst and Larry Coon and's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.