Speaking with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, Mitch Kupchak admitted that the team can still use the amnesty provision to wash their hands of a contract, but are unsure if they will exercise their option to do so:
It’s a tool that we’re aware of. We have not decided if we will use it. It’s just a tool we know is available. We feel our players have value, but there is always a financial component to this business and the new collective bargaining agreement made some significant changes that we need to be aware of.
Under the new CBA, the Lakers are eligible to part ways with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace or Steve Blake. They’ll still have to pay each the money they’re owed over the life of their contract, but that money would no longer count against Los Angeles’ cap. In the scheme of the luxury tax, this provision has the potential to save the Lakers tens of millions of dollars.
But should they use it? And if so, who should they use it on?
Any decision the Lakers make will first depend on what Dwight Howard decides to do and how quickly he decides to do it.
For the 2013-14 season, amnesties must be used within seven days of the July moratorium period ending. In this case, that’s July 10, meaning the Lakers will have until July 17 to use it. The hope would be that Howard, an unrestricted free agent come July 1, will have finished shopping around by then.
Should he re-sign with the Lakers, it decreases the likelihood that Los Angeles will amnesty anyone. If you add Howard’s inevitable annual salary to the Lakers’ $78.2 million payroll for next season, Los Angeles will have anywhere between $96 and $99 million on their books. Only one player could then be amnestied that puts them under the luxury tax: Kobe Bryant.
The Black Mamba is slated to make $30.5 million season and though he’s recovering from a ruptured Achilles and pushing 35, the Lakers aren’t about to amnesty him. He means too much to the franchise and is worth more than he’s making in revenue. Severing ties with him that way isn’t a realistic option.
Tinseltown could throw Gasol’s $19 million salary by the way side, but with Howard in the fold, it would still be looking at an $80 million bill before taxes. Neither World Peace ($7.7 million; player option) or Blake ($4 million) would make a significant dent in the Lakers’ luxury-tax bill.
If Howard leaves, it changes everything.
The Lakers may still hold onto everyone because their salary commitments total less than $80 million before any knew acquisitions, or they could seize the opportunity to fall outside the luxury tax by amnestying Pau. Bryant would be an option too, though not really. Blake and World Peace (if he opts in) would remain options as well if the Lakers were simply looking to save a few bucks.
Also impacting the Lakers’ decision is World Peace. He’s expected to opt into the last year of his deal, but if he opts out and Howard leaves, you can kiss either Blake or Gasol goodbye. In that scenario, the Lakers’ salary-cap commitments would stand at $71.1 million. Getting rid of Blake would put them below the luxury-tax line while sending Gasol packing would actually put the Lakers below the projected $58.5 million salary cap.
Either way, the Lakers have a decision to make. Do they employ their right to amnesty a contract, or do they holster it? They just don’t know. But they will. Once Howard (and World Peace) makes his decision, the Lakers will have a better understanding of what amnestying someone would actually mean and whether or not they’ll actually use it.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.