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The Dangers of the NBA’s Potential Amnesty Clause for the Indiana Pacers

Amongst the many discussions regarding the CBA negotiations that will hopefully lead the Pacers into a positive arena for future opportunities to succeed is the potential return of the league’s one-time amnesty clause. It was brought up in 2005 to give teams luxury cap relief, the Pacers using it on the retiring Reggie Miller. As would be the case if passed, every team would have to honor a player’s contract, but be allowed to shed one player’s contract from their cap space. The proposal takes a nasty turn for the Pacers specifically when the discussion becomes about pure cap relief as opposed to say, luxury tax relief.

The topic was discussed briefly between Bill Simmons and Chad Ford at the end of the May 17th edition of the B.S. Report. Simmons was quick to point out that "it’s a big life raft to throw to the Orlando Magic … if they get that life raft with Gilbert Arenas, it’s completely changes their chances at keeping Dwight Howard." Ford agreed that they’d benefit the most from the clause, to which Simmons quickly responded that they benefit unfairly, that Otis Smith’s reckless spending would essentially be rewarded.

Ford would go on to singled out Indiana’s cap situation, the positive situation they’ve put themselves in that if the clause goes through completely, it gives an unfair advantage to Orlando, Washington, and the Lakers specifically. The three teams that signed Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas, and Ron Artest to lengthy and large contracts would get a free pass for those decisions that would help them remain competitive. While the teams would still have to pay those players, the cap relief they desperately need would suddenly be there.

But no such help came to the Pacers in wiping out the contracts of Troy Murphy, Mike Dunelavy, Jamaal Tinsley, or T.J. Ford in this way, spending the past four years waiting, waiting, waiting for their relief to come. It isn’t fair to Indiana, who paid dearly for their mistakes; the bloated signings of Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, and the aforementioned Tinsley as well as Stephen Jackson’s contract that the Lakers would get more breaks from the league in shedding the troublesome length on Ron Artest’s contract; much less give a sizeable competitive advantage to the up and coming Wizards all while changing the landscape of the East by giving Orlando a second chance to remain a competitive team. That doesn’t even mention teams like Detroit, Milwaukee, and even New Jersey who would benefit greatly from the clause that the Pacers would not.

This hurts the Pacers not only in this way, but also competitively in the free agency market. Suddenly, it drives up the prices on the suddenly deeper pool of also-rans, while also creating more free agency competition to take away from Indiana’s diminishing advantage from holding out for cap space relief. However, the positive in helping prevent, or at the very least limit, the damage caused to teams like Indiana because of the Amnesty, as Simmons pointed out, is that the league today is different from 2005 when almost every team had a bad contract they had to get out from under.

While bad contracts still exist, teams have started to wise up instead of overspending, and the move wouldn’t benefit as many teams as it did in 2005, the Pacers being perhaps the face of those teams. For a team that languished in irrelevancy for years because of contract issues, I hope to be forgiven for wanting no teams to get a Get Out of Jail Free card for the same crimes the Pacers have finally been pardoned for.