Two offseasons ago the Los Angeles Lakers made a pair of head-scratching signings, inking veteran Luol Deng to a four-year, $72 million contract and Timofey Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million contract.
Neither player lived up to their contract in their first year in Los Angeles, and the result was executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak losing their jobs last February.
The Lakers new front office, led by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, was able to get out of the Mozgov contract, but it cost them a young asset in D’Angelo Russell as the pair were traded to the Brooklyn Nets this offseason for Brook Lopez and the 27th pick in the 2017 draft, which was used on Kyle Kuzma.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, there was a method to Buss and Kupchak’s madness, as at the time they made the signings they thought there would be an anmnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement, which didn’t end up being the case:
Yes, Lakers expected there to be amnesty – Mitch asked me specifically why there was no amnesty in the new deal https://t.co/whSgl2BMCv
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) November 7, 2017
Under the previous CBA, the amnesty provision gave teams a way out of bad contract Like Deng and Mozgov’s by allowing them to waive a player before the start of a season without their salary being counted toward the salary cap or luxury tax.
But when the new CBA was signed in Dec. 2016, there was no more amnesty provision, which as Pincus pointed out, puzzled Kupchak.
The Lakers are still trying to find a way out of Deng’s contract, although it won’t be easy. Deng has been inactive for the Lakers last 11 games, and is reportedly seeking an exit from L.A. so he can earn playing time somewhere else.
But it is unlikely that any team would want to take on his massive contract unless they had other incentives, like a young asset or draft pick attached to it in a trade. So if the Lakers aren’t willing to do that they may have to waive and stretch his contract at the end of this season, which isn’t ideal but may be necessary if the Lakers want to sign two max salary free agents.
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