Reports indicate that the NBA’s next Collective Bargaining Agreement — whenever it’s agreed upon — will include an amnesty clause that will allow NBA teams to release one player, pay his salary, take no luxury tax liability, and erase that player’s salary for salary cap purposes.
The clause will obviously help certain teams — Orlando will certainly enjoy seeing Gilbert Arenas leave town, the Wizards will likely tell Rashard Lewis not to let the door hit him on the way out, and Portland could decide to cut Brandon Roy (and his balky knees) to conserve $15 million worth of cap space per season — and could also benefit other teams more subtly. The Heat, for example, would stand to be a desired location for any overpaid stars released under the amnesty requirement. Imagine Lebron James and Dwyane Wade flanked by Brandon Roy, assuming that Roy can still run up and down the court.
But the Boston Celtics will have more trouble taking advantage of the amnesty clause. With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen on the last legs of their careers, the Celtics are no longer a top destination for veterans looking to piggyback their way to a ring. They also have no clear candidates to be released using the clause. Even if the Celtics released Kevin Garnett (and the $21 million left on his contract), that would leave them with more than $51 million of salary in 2011-12. That would likely put them just under the salary cap, and it would be difficult to replace Garnett’s production without having more money to spend. Ditto goes for Ray Allen, whose two-year, $20 million also expires after the 2011-12 season. Jermaine O’Neal, who will make $6.2 million next season in his contract’s final year, also would seem to be safe from being released under the provision: after all, he is currently Boston’s only center.
The Celtics could choose to release Paul Pierce to free Pierce’s $47 million for the next three seasons, clearing even more salary space for the summer of 2012. But that doesn’t make sense for a variety of different reasons. Before even elaborating on how cold it would be to release Pierce, who has played his entire career to date in Boston, Pierce just finished arguably the most efficient season of his career and it would be difficult to replace his varied talents in the free agent market. Additionally, for the 2011-12 season (assuming one happens), the Celtics would be hamstrung by the same lack of cap space even after releasing Pierce. If they are serious about contending once more with the current core (or twice more, if you see an empty glass and call it half-full), releasing anybody on the current roster does not make sense.
Only Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo and Pierce are on the books after the 2011-12 campaign. We’ve already discussed Pierce, Rondo is one of the league’s best bargains, and Bradley is still on his (inexpensive) rookie contract.
Likely, the Celtics would decline to use the amnesty clause, and instead enter the 2011-12 season with the same nucleus that has guided them the past four years, if only because the team has no natural amnesty candidates.