The first day that NBA teams are officially allowed to sign free agents and make trades is also the first day of the six-day window where teams are allowed to use the amnesty provision to cut players and remove them from their salary cap. The Washington Wizards are still undecided about whether to use the amnesty provision on one of the top league-wide candidates, forward Andray Blatche, according to sources.
Washington is exploring several options for Blatche, who has fallen out of favor both with fans in D.C. and with the organization after signing a contract extension in 2010 that reworked his existing contract into a five-year deal worth $35 million. The Wizards could opt for amnesty, which would remove the remaining $23 million the team owes Blatche from its salary cap, freeing up resources that the team will need in the next few years to extend players like John Wall and this year’s first-round pick, Bradley Beal.
The Wizards could trade Blatche immediately. Or, they could continue to explore trade options while removing Blatche from the daily workings of the team–in essence, paying him his salary to stay away. The Pacers used a similar strategy in 2008, forcing guard Jamaal Tinsley to sit out the whole season while not playing after he clashed with then-coach Rick Carlisle and the organization.
But asking owner Ted Leonsis to write that $23 million check is a big ask, sources allow, even though Blatche is not in the team’s future plans. The Wizards have remade their power forward group in the last year and a half, drafting Jan Vesely with the sixth pick in the 2011 Draft and acquiring Emeka Okafor from New Orleans last month (along with small forward Trevor Ariza) for Rashard Lewis. Second-year forward Trevor Booker also played extremely effectively in spots the last couple of years. Washington has Ariza and Chris Singleton penciled in to take the lion’s share of minutes at small forward.
The Wizards, according to sources, do have potential trade options for Blatche, who played in just 26 games last season, averaging 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds before, essentially, being shut down by Washington and removed from the team for the rest of the season. (Coach Randy Wittman, re-signed by the Wizards to come back next season, does not want to coach Blatche going forward, according to several sources.) The Pistons and Bobcats have expressed some interest. But the Wizards are not at the moment interested in taking back big contracts like Tyrus Thomas (from Charlotte) or Charlie Villanueva (from Detroit) in exchange for Blatche.
Teams are allowed to use the amnesty provision once during the life of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Seven teams–Orlando, New York, Golden State, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Portland and Indiana–used the provision last season and cannot use it again. The 76ers are going to use the provision to release forward Elton Brand and his $18.1 million salary from the team’s books. That will allow the 76ers to sign free agent guard Nick Young and absorb the salary of forward Dorell Wright, whom Philadelphia agreed to acquire on Tuesday from Golden State in a three-team deal that will send Hornets guard Jarrett Jack to the Warriors.
Players who are amnestied are subject to claim by teams that are under the salary cap. The team that submits the highest bid for the player gets him. This provision was included to keep higher-revenue teams, many of whom are luxury tax payers and thus ineligible to make amnesty claims, from being able to hoard good players that might suddenly become available.