While the new collective bargaining agreement did not exactly help small-market teams keep their stars, it did include one shining clause that may inadvertently aid the New Jersey Nets in their quest to retain All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
The amnesty clause, which allows each team to waive one player if it so chooses, can perhaps help the Nets more than any other team in the league. While contracts still counted towards payroll under the 2005 provision, many believe this new provision will allow teams to erase contracts off the books completely.
If the Nets decide to utilize this option, like many think they should, they will undoubtedly release poor Travis Outlaw. Outlaw, who was one of the worst players in the league last year according to PER, EWA and other advanced metrics, epitomizes the definition of dead weight and the need for the amnesty clause.
Prior to last season, the Nets front office handed Outlaw a five-year, $35 million contract after he managed a measly nine points per game in an injury-riddled 2009-2010 campaign. At the peak of his career, Outlaw produced a solid 13 points per game in 27 minutes off the bench, yet this in no way warranted such a fat contract. Upon receiving his undeserved contract, Outlaw sat back and sucked the energy out of the team’s offense, giving Nets fans someone to unload their pent-up frustration onto.
In fact, Outlaw became a prominent name in discussions surrounding the need for an amnesty clause.
Call it laziness due to guaranteed contracts or foolishness on the part of the owners, but either way, Nets fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief. With Outlaw’s contract off the books, they now have over $22 million to spend in this year’s upcoming free-agency frenzy. Under this new clause, the Nets will also be able to make competing offers to other waived players, a list which may include the likes of Brandon Roy and Rashard Lewis.
While many teams will likely sit back in free agency rather than commit to big contracts right away, the Nets know that they need to make a splash. Somehow, the organization needs to show that they are committed to building a championship-caliber team around Deron Williams. Williams will likely decline what they offer him on December 9th, but with a couple moves, Williams could be swayed into staying when it is ultimately time for him to decide his future.
Suddenly what looked like dead weight and a crippling blow to the organization's salary flexibility has become an opportunity to make a critical step towards competitiveness. Finally, Travis Outlaw has proved his worth to the team.
Brandon Putre is a Featured Columnist for the New Jersey Nets. Follow him on Twitter @Cortezisreal