For the last 72 hours people in Los Angeles have been asking all sorts of questions. With Kobe Bryant out for the foreseeable future due to a torn Achilles, the team is suddenly forced to expedite the post-Kobe era. While everybody expects Bryant to be back sooner rather than later, the team will certainly explore some different options while looking towards the future. But one of those options, apparently, isn’t to use their Amnesty provision on Kobe.
According to Serena Winters of Lakers Nation, team general manager Mitch Kupchak is not ready to entertain the Amnesty option with Bryant.
“That’s not even something that we’ve discussed,” Kupchak said. “That’s the furthest thing from our mind right now.”
But how much of that is Mitch being coy and saving face in front of the media? I won’t even dive into the PR disaster that letting Kobe go for essentially nothing more than money would be, but the reality of the situation is that in some ways it may make sense for the team to consider it. Bryant is owed a ton of money next season, and even though he’s still one of the most productive guys in the league, the new CBA is getting more and more ruthless on teams that break the cap. Especially in consecutive seasons
So what would it take for the team to legitimately consider using their Amnesty provision on Bryant?
I asked the resident CBA guru, Larry Coon, that very same question.
“I wouldn’t be so sure that the Lakers wouldn’t amnesty Kobe. If it becomes clear that he’s going to miss the entire season, then a Kobe amnesty would essentially get them out of the luxury tax – eg: if they would have been $30 million over the tax line, their tax would have been $85 million. This would reduce it to zero (assuming Dwight stays. If he leaves then the Lakers would have about $10M in cap room).”
This is a very different tale than the one being told by Kupchak. While that’s not a surprise, the financial benefits of getting out from under Kobe’s contract are certainly numerous. Instead of the team being forced to bite a nearly-$90 million luxury tax bill, they suddenly find themselves with excess cap room.
Still, even with this knowledge, Coon doesn’t expect the team to ship Bryant out unless he’s way behind schedule on his Achilles rehabilitation.
“I think they wait until July to evaluate Kobe. If it looks like he’s going to be out the year (especially given their 2014 plan – see below), then they have a serious discussion about it.”
If the team does hold onto Bryant, which in all honesty I am expecting them to do, who gets the Amnesty ax? After holding off on using their Amnesty abilities the last two summers, the team might not be so patient this time around.
There are four Amnesty candidates – Blake, MWP, Pau and Kobe. Blake saves them about $17M, Metta about $31M, Pau about $67M, and Kobe, as I said, gets them out of the tax completely. Two additional considerations: 1) You don’t want to amnesty someone when you can trade them, because you still have to pay their salary and you don’t have the opportunity to get assets in return. Pau is certainly tradable, so I don’t think they Amnesty him. 2) If you have to pay the same amount to replace an amnestied player, then you haven’t gained anything (in fact you’ve lost, since you have to pay the salary of both). This makes Blake unlikely.
If this is what ends up playing out, but World Peace ends up opting out of his contract like he’s stated he might do, it’s entirely possible the Lakers once again choose to ignore their Amnesty abilities. With Gasol playing at a high level over the course of the past several weeks, he’s once again proven himself to be a valuable asset that other teams would be willing to trade for. And, as Coon mentioned, the fact that they would essentially be paying Blake’s replacement the same amount of money they would be paying Blake to go away seems completely implausible.
So the Lakers, for now, are stuck in a tricky situation. It’s obviously far too soon to decide whether or not Bryant is a serious Amnesty candidate, but their other options aren’t much more clear. For now, it seems that the most likely scenario would involve the team letting World Peace go if he does choose to return for the final season of his contract. But until these things have been decided, the team will continue to keep their options on the table and try to decide what the best move is going forward.
In case you missed it, be sure to check out what Mitch Kupchak had to say about the Lakers amnestying Kobe Bryant!
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