Colin Bryant, one of the representatives for Rashard Lewis, confirmed in an email that the Wizards do not plan to use the amnesty clause to waive his client.
“I spoke to Washington and there is no indication they will use their amnesty on Rashard,” Bryant wrote early Thursday. “They have assured us they will not use the amnesty on him and he is going to be a big part of their plans now and in the future.”
The new collective bargaining agreement will contain a provision that allows teams to cut a player and have the entire salary removed from the cap. Lewis would appear to be a prime candidate to be released since he is two years removed from his last all-star appearance, averaged just 11.4 points in 32 games with the Wizards and is slated to earn about $46 million over the next two seasons – though his salary this season will be reduced by $4.3 million because of the 66-game season.
“It’s not going to happen,” Lewis’s primary agent, Tony Dutt, told Yahoo! Sports late Wednesday. Dutt negotiated the six-year, $118-million contract Lewis signed with Orlando in 2007. “They see him as a big part of what they hope to do going forward, not only as a player but a leader.”
There are several reasons why the Wizards informed Lewis’s representatives that they don’t intend to cut Lewis – and not all of them are financially motivated. I pointed out some a few weeks ago, when speculation about the amnesty clause had begun to intensify. I explained a few more in today’s newspaper.
Here are a few more:
Fiscally, the Wizards could potentially create several more problems by waiving Lewis. They would essentially have to pay about $54 million for him to leave – his $22 million salary this season, plus the $10 million he’s guaranteed to receive next season, plus the $22 million that the Wizards would have to spend to fill the cap room created by his absence.
The NBA will require teams to spend a minimum of 85 percent of the salary cap, which is expected to be around $58 million. So, the Wizards would be forced to spend money on players in a relatively weak free agent class that lacks game-changing superstars. The Wizards plan to continue to develop their draft picks and watch the players grow together, so adding big-money rotation players could stunt that plan.
Also, JaVale McGee is eligible for an extension and will be a restricted free agent next summer. And if John Wall blossoms into a star, he could be eligible for a larger extension after the creation of the Derrick Rose rule, which allows young players to get big money earlier. Locking up free agents now could prohibit future spending when most of the talent has ripened and is ready to contend – especially when a more punitive luxury tax will be in place in two years.
The Wizards acquired Lewis from Orlando in exchange for Gilbert Arenas, in what essentially was a swap of stale contracts. But while Lewis is grossly overpaid, with his production diminishing in each of his last three seasons, he is still serviceable and could help the team compete if healthy. He won’t ever return to his days as a 20-points-a-game scorer with the Seattle SuperSonics, but he can still spread the floor and is a career 39 percent three-point shooter.
Lewis, 31, is the only player on the roster older than 26 and has more experience than fellow projected starters Andray Blatche (six), JaVale McGee (three) and Wall (one) combined. He also has the experience of reaching the NBA Finals and embraced his role as a leader in the 32 games he played last season. His right knee is still recovering, but Lewis showed flashes of his explosiveness while playing with his Wizards teammates in Las Vegas in September.
But remember, the amnesty clause is available for the life of the collective bargaining agreement. If the Wizards need to cut costs, they can always release Lewis before next season.