Remember when we renamed the NBA’s amnesty clause after Allan Houston and giggled as teams paid off some of the league’s dumbest contracts to go away? Well, if you enjoyed that experience, you’re going to love Amnesty 2.0. According to the Oregonian‘s John Canzano last week, the owners have already decided to include an amnesty clause in the yet-signed labor agreement. The big difference: Teams can pick one player to waive, then pay off the rest of his contract … only this time, that player’s deal won’t count against the salary cap (not just the luxury tax).
Should an agreement be reached soon — don’t hold your breath1 — Amnesty 2.0 would have an even bigger impact than Amnesty 1.0 did. An already truncated free agency would be more entertaining if a team found itself one move away from being suddenly flush with cap space, or if it were debating between cutting someone loose or holding on to his bloated contract as a salary match for a later trade. If there ends up being a hard salary cap, contenders could even be forced to use their amnesties on well-known veterans like Ron Artest, Brandon Roy, Mike Miller and (gulp) Kevin Garnett.
At its core, the onetime, get-out-of-debt-free clause helps teams that foolishly overspent for players. You couldn’t blame the league’s savvier executives (like Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti) for bristling if and when it’s invoked — especially for some of last summer’s more questionable signings, when teams knew a harder cap was coming and acted recklessly anyway. Is it fair to whisk away those mistakes when someone like Presti, who spent wisely and frugally these past few years, gets no benefits whatsoever? That’s just one of the confounding things about this lockout: Much of it seems to be about resetting the big picture for teams that couldn’t handle operating within that big picture. How is that the players’ fault? It’s a great question.
The last time we went down this amnesty road (2005), teams saved more than $212 million in future luxury tax payments and Houston got a rule named after him. That term was actually a misnomer. Oddly enough — or fittingly given the slew of moves they made over the next few years — the Knicks never used the clause on Houston. In that spirit, we think this year’s amnesty clause should be named after Eddy Curry, another player who fits the purging prototype that, alas, the Knicks will never be able to use it on. We’ll call it the Curry Cure.2
For the record, Abrams couldn’t keep Simmons out of this feature — Simmons gave so many notes for Abrams’ original column that we decided to fold them into a bigger piece. Fine, it wasn’t “we,” it was “him.” As Simmons explained by e-mail, “The Red Sox are falling apart. The NBA’s salary cap is my security blanket. I’d like to spend the next 40 to 80 hours figuring out amnesty guys if that’s OK. It’s better than getting drunk, then waking up my kids by throwing up in my backyard at 2:30 in the morning.”
If you say so. Here’s how each team should use their “Curry Cure.”
Abrams: No one. If the Celtics were convinced that last season’s ending meant restructuring the core, then the $21.2 million that Kevin Garnett is on the books for in 2011-12 would be considered. But they’re not there yet. Though this may be a provision Danny Ainge wants back in the future if he signs Jeff Green to a long-term contract.
Simmons: If the Celtics don’t use their Curry Cure on Jermaine O’Neal ($6.2 million in 2012), I am flying to Boston, taking a cab right from the airport to the Celtics offices, then setting those offices on fire.3
NEW YORK KNICKS
Abrams: No one. They have only four players (Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman’s manageable salary, and an option for Toney Douglas) beyond the 2011-12 season. Chauncey Billups ($14.2 million) and Ronny Turiaf ($4.4 million) are done after this year. This rule isn’t fair to Donnie Walsh, who spent years purging the Knicks of Curry, Jerome James, and Isiah Thomas’ other greatest misses, only to have the Curry Cure show up right when he left.
Simmons: The Knicks have 10 players under contract for $62 million right now. That’s pushing them over the cap no matter where it ends up. If there’s a hard cap, I see them dealing Billups for someone making less money, using the amnesty on Turiaf, then creating enough cap space to sign a third close-to-marquee guy … or, knowing them, it would be Jared Jeffries for $50 million.
Abrams: Elton Brand’s contract jumps out ($35.2 million through 2013), but he quietly steadied them last season and gives them a reliable post presence. Instead, Philadelphia should look to trim the $6.7 million that Andres Nocioni is due in 2011-12.
Simmons: I can’t believe I’m agreeing with this.
NEW JERSEY NETS
Abrams: Travis Outlaw. One of last summer’s questionable signings (five years, $35 million) that became worse as the season dragged along.
Simmons: Here’s why we’re having a lockout — because teams are so effing stupid that they actually need to waive guys they just signed a year ago. There should be bonus amnesty points for being total morons. The Nets should get to wipe twice the amount of Outlaw’s contract off their cap, like how disabled people get to park in disabled-person spaces.
Abrams: Linas Kleiza. It would be tempting for the Raptors to use the clause on Jose Calderon, whose contract guarantees him $20.3 million over the next two years. Kleiza’s contract (signed last summer) is equally awful and pays him $13.8 million through 2013-14.
Simmons: Disagree. I’d rather chop Calderon’s $20.3 million. I’m pretty sure paying eight figures a year for a backup point guard isn’t getting you anywhere with a harder cap. Although really, they should see if they can use the clause on Bryan Colangelo — that’s the worst single Raptors contract, right?
Abrams: No one. Chicago is well put together with no fat to trim — unless Bulls fans are still mad at Carlos Boozer for his playoff performance.
Simmons: I’m still mad at Boozer and I’m not even a Bulls fan. The safe move would be using the Curry Cure on Ronnie Brewer ($9 million over the next two years), then replacing him with Rip Hamilton (after Detroit waives him). But with Derrick Rose’s free agency coming up and Boozer’s $60.6 million over the next four years saddling their cap, I think they’ll regret not pressing the RESET button and using their Curry Cure on John Lackey. Er, Boozer. Sorry. I got my salary-cap albatrosses mixed up.
Abrams: James Posey. No, his career did not end with the championship in Boston (it only seems that way). Great chance for Indiana to clear its only extraneous contract (Posey’s $7.6 million).
Simmons: Agree, it’s Posey. But you know how a player comes back to his old team for one day and “retires” with them, like when Nomar Garciaparra “retired” as a Red Sox? It’s too bad T.J. Ford can’t come back to Indiana for one day so the Pacers could use their amnesty on him. That’s really how the T.J. Ford era should have ended in Indiana. I feel cheated.
Abrams: Drew Gooden. Played only 35 games last season, and will be 34 years old by the time his contract expires in 2015.
Simmons: Disagree. No way John Hammond is writing off Gooden and his $26.3 million remaining salary yet; that’s one of those sabermetric moves that Hammond makes in a desperate attempt to win John Hollinger’s affection. Remember, Hammond still has a 200-to-1 chance to be the lead character in the Moneyball sequel someday. He can’t quit on Gooden yet. I predict Beno Udrih ($14.3 million through 2013) will get Curry Cured.
Abrams: Richard Hamilton ($25 million over the next two years). A sad but necessary and overdue parting. Detroit could also look at trimming off the longer-termed contracts of Ben Gordon ($37.2 million through 2014) and Charlie Villanueva ($24.2 through 2014), but Hamilton makes the most sense for the Pistons: Their championship team dissipated long ago, and Hamilton has soured on the organization.
Simmons: I don’t feel sad. By the way, congratulations to Joe Dumars for tying Isiah Thomas’ “three legitimate amnesty clause candidates” record from 2005.
Abrams: Baron Davis. A no-brainer. How sweet would this work for Cleveland if the amnesty clause takes place? They traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Davis and a first-round draft pick. That pick evolved into the no. 1 overall pick in Kyrie Irving. Now they may also have the chance to dump Davis and get the $30.7 million he is owed over the next two years off the books? It’s not LeBron, but Cleveland comes up rosy in this scenario.
Simmons: The next time my dog takes a dump, I’m mailing it to Neil Olshey with the return address, “YOUR BARON DAVIS TRADE.”
Abrams: No one really jumps out. Mike Miller is signed through 2014-15, though, and, if inclined, the Heat could use the clause to swap him out for another veteran player like Shane Battier.
Simmons: I think the Heat should be inclined if there’s a hard cap. They have a 2½-year window to win a title and just learned the hard way that you need eight or nine players to do so. For what they’re paying Miller ($24 million through 2014), they could sign multiple I-already-made-money-I-just-want-to-play-for-a-title veterans like Kenyon Martin, Chuck Hayes, Michael Redd, Grant Hill, Andrei Kirilenko,
Delonte West, Josh Howard, Mike Dunleavy … or they could just splurge on a better small forward (like Battier). Actually, what am I saying? Stay the course, Miami! You should definitely keep Mike Miller!
Abrams: Pick one — Gilbert Arenas ($62.4 million through 2014) or Hedo Turkoglu ($34.5 million through 2014). Both have underperformed (and then some), but Otis Smith has a longstanding relationship with Arenas that dates back to their days together in Oakland. My take: They need to shed Arenas to give Dwight Howard extra help.
Simmons: Agreed — has to be Arenas. Although it’s a shame Hedo is going to escape Amnesty 2.0’s wrath; few deserve the indignity more than him. Lemme throw this idea at you: What if the Magic amnesty’d Arenas, then traded Hedo and J.J. Redick to Atlanta for Joe Johnson? That’s the best possible teammate out there for Dwight Howard; meanwhile, Atlanta could use the clause on Hedo (wiping $11.1 million off their 2012 cap) and turn Johnson ($107.3 million remaining through 2016) into Redick ($12.9 million through 2013) while dropping their 2012 cap from $66.56 to $55.3 million. I’m a genius. How am I not running a team, Abrams?
Abrams: Joe Johnson should happen … but it won’t. Even if the Hawks erased his contract off their salary cap (as well as that $24.9 million final season in 2016 when he will be 34 years old), he is still owed that money and might as well play for it. Instead, Atlanta can wiggle free from Marvin Williams’ contract ($24.9 million through 2014).
Simmons: Agreed. You have to admire the Hawks: They compounded one of the worst NBA mistakes of this century (drafting Williams over Chris Paul) by giving Williams an indefensibly dumb contract extension just in case their fans didn’t feel bad enough about it. I still like my Hedo/Redick-for-Johnson scenario more for them.
Abrams: DeSagana Diop. Diop is owed $6.9 million in 2011-12, with a player option for $7.4 million the following season, only he’s played 84 games total the past three years. Michael Jordan is an advocate for reining in player salaries and won’t miss the opportunity to trim his payroll if given the chance.
Simmons: We should use the amnesty clause on Charlotte.
Abrams: Rashard Lewis. Lewis is a gauge for how you view the lockout. Right or wrong, he is the poster player for the league’s doomed economic model — a decent and grossly overpaid player. “Talk to the owner. He gave me the deal,” Lewis recently told the Washington Post‘s Michael Lee. “When it comes to contracts, the players aren’t sitting there negotiating that contract. I’m sitting at home and my agent calls me, saying, ‘I got a max on the table.’ I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘Naw, that’s too much. Go out there and negotiate $20 or $30 [million] less.'” This time, the Wizards have their fingers crossed they will have the opportunity to make the correct call and shed themselves of the $43.8 million owed to Lewis over these next two seasons.
Simmons: Rashard Lewis went first in my Amnesty Clause Lockout Auction last week. Someone paid $80 for him. Don’t sleep on next year’s Wizards, by the way — if they can shed Lewis, they’ll have $23.6 million committed in 2011-12 salaries. They could potentially sign a free-agent center (Nene? Tyson Chandler? Marc Gasol?) and/or trade for one or two expensive starters to help out teams that need cap space (Rudy Gay? Chris Kaman? Billups? Emeka Okafor? Boozer?). An example: What would Chicago say if Washington offered it Andray Blatche ($29.8 million through 2014-2015) and Blatche’s parole officer ($40k) for Boozer (twice the price)? It’d say yes, right?
Abrams: No one. If they need to save money, they could free themselves of Thabo Sefolasha’s contract ($11.6 million through 2014) and hand the two-guard spot completely over to James Harden.
Simmons: Sam Presti is a better man than me. I’d be holding press conferences and saying things like, “Really? Otis Smith overpays Rashard Lewis by $50 million, then makes it worse by trading him for Arenas … and we’re throwing him a freaking life jacket? Really? REALLY?????? You know who I’m using my amnesty on? ROYAL IVEY! HE MAKES 10 F*CKING DOLLARS AN HOUR! YOU GUYS SUCK! F*CK YOU!!!!!!!!!!”
Abrams: Al Harrington. Yet another nonsensical signing from last summer, Harrington would make $27.7 million over the next four years to be Denver’s overpaid, underperforming, poor man’s Carmelo replacement if it wasn’t for the Curry Cure. The only way he stays is if Denver simply needs him because all their other free agents (Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler, and J.R. Smith) are off playing in China.
Simmons: Agree on Harrington. By the way, if the Georgetown hoops team couldn’t start World War III in China, I’m pretty sure K-Mart and J.R. could do it.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Abrams: Brandon Roy. A tough, economical decision for a player who meant so much to Portland’s organization over the past few years. Roy can still contribute as a bench guy, but it is hard picturing him as a franchise player given his many recent injuries or that his hefty contract ($68.7 million remaining) lasts until 2014-15.
Simmons: You’re right, it’s gonna be Roy. This made me sad for about 10 seconds — until I realized that he’ll almost definitely sign with Phoenix and get rejuvenated by their miracle-working training staff … followed by Portland fans rioting for three solid weeks.
Abrams: Mehmet Okur, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2010-11 and would save the Jazz $10.9 million in 2011-12 by being Curry Cured.
Simmons: Agreed. Could more things be falling Utah’s way? It fleeced New Jersey with the Deron Williams trade, won a top-three lottery pick and shed Andrei Kirilenko’s onerous salary, now it’s dumping Memo’s last year … oh, wait, we’re not going to have an NBA season. I keep forgetting.
Abrams: Darko Milicic. How could this list be compiled and not include Darko? He still has three years and $15.7 million left on his inadvisable contract.
Simmons: KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t believe I’m disagreeing with you here … but I think they’ll use their amnesty on Martell Webster (two years, $11 million remaining) and chop their total number of small forwards down from 19 to 18.
Abrams: Luke Walton. It’s too bad they can’t use the clause on a two-for-one deal to extract both Metta World Peace and Ron Artest. Even though Artest’s Lakers career probably peaked during his first playoff run with the team, they still probably need an invested Artest to regain their title hopes. Walton does not really contribute on the court anymore and is due $11.5 million over the next two seasons.
Simmons: Respectfully disagree. Artest looked washed up last season; he’s owed more money ($21.8 million through 2014) than Walton; his wife is starring on Basketball Wives; and … wait, I’m forgetting something … hold on … oh, yeah, he just changed his name to Metta World Peace!!! Really, they’re not cutting the cord with Metta? Besides, he already paid off that contract with that soul-crushing 3 in the last minute of Game 7 of the 2010 Finals that never should have gone in under any circumstances and somehow did. I can still see it when I close my eyes every night. (Abrams is a Lakers fan, he’s cackling right now. I hate everybody.)
Abrams: Josh Childress. The Suns screwed up last summer by letting Amar’e Stoudemire go, then spending most of what the Knicks gave him by overpaying Childress, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye. Childress is their top amnesty candidate because he never cracked Alvin Gentry’s rotation and has a contract that guarantees him $27 million through 2015.
Simmons: Agree on Childress. Too bad the Suns can’t use their amnesty on their owner.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Abrams: David Lee. Toss-up between him and Andris Biedrins ($27 million through 2014), but Lee makes more money for more years ($68.7 million through 2016).
Simmons: Are you crazy??? If the Warriors use their amnesty on Lee over that cap-hogging stiff Biedrins, I will walk from Los Angeles to San Francisco while wearing a Lakers no. 32 jersey that says “ABRAMS” on the back.
Abrams: Chris Kaman. He’s one of the league’s few quality centers when healthy and could have made a nice pairing with Blake Griffin, only he gets injured too often and hasn’t lived up to his generous contract (one year remaining at $12.7 million). The Clippers can turn the position over and help afford restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan with this move.
Simmons: If the Clips want to dump Kaman, couldn’t they trade him pretty easily? You’re telling me Indiana, Washington, or Sacramento (all way under the cap) wouldn’t give up a second-rounder to take a one-year flyer on him? The Clips are far enough under the cap ($45 million committed to 10 players) that they can use their amnesty on Ryan Gomes ($8 million over the next two years), trade Kaman, then either sign Jordan or make a monster play for Marc Gasol. I’m sure they will do absolutely nothing. The spirit of the amnesty clause — admitting that something is a sunk cost, then getting out of that sunk cost to give yourself a competitive advantage — goes against everything Donald Sterling is about. He’d rather just sink.
Abrams: Francisco Garcia. Knocks off Garcia’s $18.3 million over the next three years and creates more minutes for Jimmer.
Simmons: Jimmer Time! If the Kings shed Garcia, it knocks their 2011-12 payroll to $23 million and gives them room for one marquee free agent and a couple of “Moneyball” signings.4 No NBA franchise has a wilder swing from “best-case scenario” to “worst-case scenario” than the Kings. Their best-case scenario: a new stadium, a free-agent prize (Marc Gasol, who could make DeMarcus Cousins his new Z-Bo), a couple of savvy short-risk signings (let’s say Patty Mills and Mike Dunleavy Jr.) and a minority billionaire owner who could make sure everyone’s checks cleared. Their worst-case scenario: no stadium, prolonged labor dispute … contraction. And yes, the odds for both scenarios are pretty much the same.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Abrams: So long, Richard Jefferson. He’s set to make $9.3 million, $10.1 million, and $11 million over the next three years.
Simmons: And even after they dump him, they’re still at $66.2 million for 14 guys next year. If there’s a hard cap, or even a semi-flaccid cap, they’re still screwed unless they can turn Tony Parker ($50 million through 2015) into a significantly cheaper point guard (like Ricky Rubio or Kyle Lowry). I think it’s fascinating that (a) Spurs owner Peter Holt has the most juice of any owner in this lockout, (b) the owners are pushing for a hard cap, and (c) no 2011-12 team would be more screwed over by a hard cap than the Spurs.
Abrams: Would you want to pay Brendan Haywood $45.4 million through 2016? Me neither. Ian Mahinmi can supply what Haywood did — for about $7 million less a year.
Simmons: Good call. Only one way this doesn’t happen: If Dallas can’t re-sign Tyson Chandler. Do you realize that one of us has suggested a combined total of THIRTEEN amnesty guys who were signed or extended in the summer of 2010? Jermaine O’Neal, Linas Kleiza, Carlos Boozer, Travis Outlaw, Josh Childress, David Lee, Mike Miller, Ryan Gomes, Darko Milicic, Richard Jefferson, Drew Gooden, Al Harrington and Brendan Haywood. The owners’ complaining about player salaries being too high is like the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills complaining about being in the public eye. It makes no sense. I’m starting to get bitter again, Abrams.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Abrams: Trevor Ariza. Freeing themselves of Emeka Okafor’s contract ($40.5 million through 2014) makes sense, but the Hornets need an inside presence (especially if David West is lost whenever free agency commences). Ariza has $21.8 million remaining through 2013-14, and you can replace swingmen pretty easily.
Simmons: I can’t believe I’m saying this … but I think Okafor is fairly paid. Isn’t $12 million a year market value for a starting center who defends the rim and grabs 10 boards a game? Anyway, I liked watching last year’s Hornets team — I’d rather see them bring their core guys back; use their amnesty on David Andersen (our most random amnesty guy: He’s owed $2.7 million this season); use the extra cap room (they’d be at $43.4 million post-Andersen) to either to re-sign West, splurge for a rebounder (Kris Humphries?) or target two cheaper veterans (Andrei Kirilenko and Kenyon Martin?); then tell Chris Paul, “Re-sign with us, let’s make a run at the title here. We’re close. We could be this year’s Dallas.”
(Important note: I don’t have a Plan B if Paul shakes his head and responds, “Um, we don’t have an owner.”)
Abrams: They won’t use their amnesty on Rudy Gay (owed $68.7 million through 2014-15) because they could trade him so easily, but remember, the Grizzlies succeeded in the playoffs without Gay by relying on a sturdy foundation of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. They would be hard-pressed to retain both — under the old economic model and probably the incoming one, as well. Couldn’t you see Memphis trading Gay in a two-for-one for a cheaper replacement plus a potential amnesty guy, then using the extra cap space to re-sign Gasol?
Simmons: Thanks for setting up the Picasso of the Trade Machine here, Abrams. America appreciates it. And you’re right, swapping Gay ($15 million cap figure in 2011-12) for Monta Ellis ($11 million) and amnesty guy Charlie Bell ($4.1 million for 2011-12) would create additional Gasol space. So would trading Gay for amnesty guy Posey ($7.6 million) and potential blue-chipper Paul George ($2.4 million this year, $2.6 million next year). TM Picasso approves both of these trades. Plus, it would save Memphis the indignity of using its Curry Cure on Mike Conley’s $32 million extension that hasn’t even kicked in yet.
Abrams: Hasheem Thabeet. On the books for exactly $5,127,720 next season.
Simmons: And you wonder why we’re having a lockout.
Bill Simmons is the Editor in Chief of Grantland and the author of the recent New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball, now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. Follow him on Twitter and check out his new home on Facebook.
Jonathan Abrams is a staff writer for Grantland. Follow him on Twitter at @jpdabrams.
Previously from Bill Simmons:
NFL Week 3: Summer Mailbag Finale
NFL Week 2: The NFL Stock Market
NFL Preview: It’s All About Continuity
Summer of Mailbag V: Passing the Buck
Summer of Mailbag IV: Dawn of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag III: Attack of the Mailbag!
The Glorious Return of the Mailbag
Summer of Mailbag: The Revenge
Red Sox Report Card
‘Good Lord! That’s His Music!’