By James Cypert – Los Angeles
With the NBA offseason now in full effect, basketball fans everywhere now turn to the developments of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that maintains the critical balance between players, owners and teams and threatens a lockout of the 2011-12 season.
One of the main points of the new proposed CBA would be the installation of a hard cap, limiting all teams to a fixed amount of player salaries that they are allowed to give.
The switch from a soft cap to a hard cap would lead to a drastic effect in the competitiveness of the NBA. Similar to in hockey and pro football where we see rotating champions year after year, the NBA would become less dynasty based. NBA teams that had paid extra luxury taxes annually to stay competitive would no longer be able to hold to this system, as small-market teams would be able to spend just as much as their big-city brethren.
Furthermore, the installation of a hard cap has led to speculation that “super teams” like the Miami Heat would have to dissolve under the financial limitations of the cap.
In reference to the league’s previous CBA in 2005, an “amnesty clause” was added to the cap considerations, which allowed each team to waive one player in order to wipe his contract from consideration towards the salary cap. The clause was a result of too many inflated, guaranteed contracts that had been given out to risky and overperforming players who had hamstrung front offices around the NBA.
For this year’s CBA, owners and the league are considering a similar proposal that would act as a “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to teams who had given out faulty or foolish contracts.
What would this amnesty clause mean for the Lakers? For one, let’s examine a few of the potential players for whom the Lakers could apply the clause.
Ron Artest – Three years / $21,776,880 remaining
After Trevor Ariza fled to the free agency during the 2008-09 offseason, Ron Artest was signed to bolster the defensive front for the Lakers and fill in as the starting small forward. What do you get with Ron Artest? Sometimes you get the flagrant two foul that led to his suspension in Game 3 of this year’s Western Conference Semifinals. Then again, sometimes you get his 20 point performance in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals. At 31 years of age, however, it’s hard to predict if Artest has any of the latter left in the tank and equally hard to justify the three years and more than $21 million left on his contract.
Luke Walton – Two years / $11,780,000 remaining
Here is a list of impactful small forwards who played more than nine minutes per game (Walton’s number this season) this season who had contracts this year for less money: Chase Budinger, Kyle Korver, Danilo Gallinari and Jeff Green. Walton recorded career lows across the board in efficiency, and with two years and almost $12 million remaining on the books, some have been teasingly referring to this year’s amnesty clause as the Luke Walton Rule . Even Matt Barnes, who snagged the backup small forward role from Walton, will be paid less than $2 million next year.
Derek Fisher – Two years / $6,800,000 remaining
If the 2011-2012 NBA season begins on time, Derek Fisher will be 37 years old. Only Steve Nash and Jason Kidd are older starting point guards. While he has been a leader in the locker room and is part of many Laker memories, his age and speed have been a liability with limited playing time against the current speed point guards of the NBA. As the Laker organization, do you hold onto the contract of the aging Fisher as a favor to Bryant, who came into the league with him as a fellow rookie, or do you view Fisher as two years and almost $7 million that you can trim off the books?
Steve Blake – Three years / $12,000,000 remaining
Lauded as one of the key free agent signings for the Lakers chance at a three-peat this year, Blake had real issues getting acclimated with the Triangle offense. With three more years and $12 million dollars on the books, Blake is looking a lot less savy of a signing at 31 years of age. In addition to getting embarrassed by Jason Terry and J.J. Barea in the second round of this year’s playoffs, Blake shot under 36% for the year, a dubious feat he hadn’t done since his first two years in the league.
NOTE: It’s important to also keep in mind that with the league’s previous amnesty clause, the waived player cannot be reaquired by the team for the length of the contract that was waived. For example, if Luke Walton were waived, he would not be able to be resigned by the Lakers until his contract would have ended at the end of the 2012-13 season. If added to the CBA, what Laker contract do you think should be used for the amnesty clause?