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Lakers may be at disadvantage in bidding for 'amnesty' players

High-paid veterans such as Baron Davis, Brandon Roy and Rashard Lewis could be waived under new 'amnesty' provision, but the process for signing such players does not favor big-payroll teams like Lakers.

November 28, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Among potential 'amnesty' free agents the Lakers might pursue (from left) are point guard Baron Davis, shooting guard Brandon Roy and forward Rashard Lewis.
Among potential 'amnesty' free agents the Lakers might pursue… (Photos from Associated…)

So the Lakers want to sign a veteran player who is waived by another team?

Baron Davis, Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis?

Not so fast.

Details are still emerging from the NBA's yet-to-be-ratified collective bargaining agreement, but the Lakers will have to get in line and bid for players who are cut via the one-time "amnesty" clause.

The process is not designed to favor the wealthy, successful teams. It's designed to help teams well below the salary cap.

While the Lakers already have a payroll of $91 million for only 11 players, almost half of the NBA's 30 teams will be below the salary cap of $58 million after signing their draft picks and can potentially offer millions more than the Lakers for waived players.

In fact, the Lakers are so far over the cap and luxury-tax threshold, they can offer a waived player only the "mini mid-level exception" — a three-year contract totaling $9.4 million.

The bid system is meant to restrict amnesty players from flocking to top teams. "Maybe some of the lesser teams can grab a player who was being overpaid," said a league official with knowledge of the bid procedure.

Then again, how much would teams bid for Davis, Roy and Lewis, who have been slowed by age, injuries or both in recent seasons? Maybe the Lakers' offer would be enough.

Details are still being worked out, but if teams independently put in the same offer to the NBA, the waived player goes to the team with the worse record last season.

Davis, 32, has two seasons and $28.7 million left on his contract with Cleveland. Roy, 27, has four years and $68.7 million remaining on his deal with Portland. Lewis, 32, has two years and $43.8 million left with Washington. The Lakers would be responsible for paying only their bid to an amnesty player, with the money going directly to the team that waived him to help offset that contract.

If the Lakers don't win any amnesty players, their only free-agency tool will be the mini mid-level exception.

Last season, teams that were well over the luxury-tax threshold could still sign a mid-level free agent to a five-year, $32-million salary, but that offer would no longer be available to teams more than $4 million over the tax threshold, including the Lakers.

Teams are allowed to cut a player via the amnesty clause in order to avoid paying luxury taxes on his salary. If the Lakers cut Metta World Peace, they still pay his salary ($21.5 million over three seasons) but save the corresponding amount in luxury taxes. Luke Walton is another amnesty possibility (two years, $11.5 million).

Meanwhile, a vote by players and owners is not expected on the new collective bargaining agreement until later this week or early next week because peripheral issues are still being discussed and the players' union has yet to reassemble after disbanding two weeks ago.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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