In the days leading up to the game, Mavs owner Mark Cuban had suggested that the Lakers should use their amnesty clause on Bryant to avoid paying his contract. In February, that was a ridiculous thought—amnesty the Mamba? What a joke.
But then, Bryant got hurt.
With just two games left in the regular season, Bryant tore his Achilles and subsequently missed his team’s brief four-game stint in the playoffs. He had surgery in April to repair the injury and claims that he will be back for the start of the regular season.
Realistically, Bryant won’t be back in time for the 2014 opener. If anything, he’ll most likely be back after the All-Star break. However, let’s put things in perspective.
Dwight Howard, an unrestricted free agent this summer, hasn’t shown any sign that he is going to come back to the Lakers. Odds are the team won’t be competitive next year, especially without D12 and with a hobbled Mamba.
Bryant is 34 years old. A torn Achilles has destroyed the careers of athletes much younger and healthier than he. However, they aren’t Kobe Bean Bryant. It’s a sure bet that Bryant will come back and play basketball again, but he can’t rush back to try to save a team that may be too bad to be salvaged.
According to Chuck Schilken of the Los Angeles Times, using the amnesty clause on Bryant would actually free up a ton of money for the Lakers:
Bryant is one of four players on the roster whom the Lakers would be allowed to cut without paying luxury taxes on his salary. If the Lakers waived Bryant, they would still have to pay his $30.5 salary for next season but would save up to $80 million in luxury taxes.
But they would not be allowed to try to re-sign him until after the 2014 season and would have lost their "Bird rights" (the ability to sign him for more than any other team) during the amnesty process.
Again, this is Black Mamba we are talking about. The outrage that would ensue if Los Angeles followed through in amnestying him would be unreal. Bryant has been the face of the franchise for his entire career and wouldn’t exactly be open to such an act of disloyalty on the part of the Lakers.
In addition, there’s the slim possibility that he’ll be ready to play next season. If LA uses the amnesty on him, he’d sit out the entire year.
Another thing to consider is that Bryant isn't the only player the clause can be enacted upon. If Metta World Peace opts into the final $7.7 million of his contract this season, the team could use it on him instead.
If he is indeed amnestied, Bryant would have the ability to sign with another team without the Lakers being able to offer more financially. Motivating him to drop the purple and gold and leave for another team, perhaps for the rival Los Angeles Clippers, is not something that the Lakers can afford.
The only feasible way that something like this would go down is if Mitch Kupchak and Bryant sat down and agreed that the $80 million the Lakers would possibly be saving could be used to build a better team—with the idea that Howard would be more likely to re-sign with improved pieces around him.
As of right now, the team is not sure what it will do with the clause, as Kupchak told Mike Trudell of NBA.com.
It's a tool that we're aware of. We have not decided if we will use it. It's just a tool we know is available. We feel our players have value, but there is always a financial component to this business and the new collective bargaining agreement made some significant changes that we need to be aware of.
Despite clashing with him throughout the season, Bryant knows that Howard needs to return to the Lakers. The ideal plan is that D12 would take over the franchise as Bryant plays out the rest of his career in LA, as the torch is then passed from the Mamba to Howard.
There are both pros and cons to using the amnesty clause on Bryant, but it really all comes down to his personal feeling on it and whether or not he would be willing to go through with it.
If he’s all right with it, I say the Lakers go for it—save some money and allow the Mamba to come back in a year at full health. However, if Bryant is not pleased with the idea, the team simply can’t do it—it would be the end of the Lakers as we know them.