NBA

NBA Rumors: Lakers to Amnesty Metta World Peace or Pau Gasol?

Metta World Peace, a.k.a. Ron Artest, was an instrumental component of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2010 championship team. Without his 20 points in Game 7 of their Finals showdown versus the Boston Celtics, L.A. would have unquestionably flamed out (at home, no less) and failed to win their second consecutive title in the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol Era.

Unfortunately, you can only live off that for so long.

Ever since his arrival, Peace has always felt like something of a square peg in a round hole. He was brought in for his defensive tenacity, but he always seemed more interested in shooting ill-advised threes. He was brought in to be an enforcer, but (up until The Elbow this year) Peace’s bad conditioning and lack of focus prevented him from being a serious intimidating force on either end of the floor.

For 85 percent of his time in L.A., Peace hasn’t really lived up to what was expected of him.

Sure, he played pretty well to close out last year, but that came a little too late. He was part of the reason that the team was inconsistent for most of the season, and his absence in the first round of the playoffs was a huge part of why the Lakers lost to OKC. Had he been there to help L.A. beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round, they may not have been as exhausted as they ultimately were in the second round.

Peace is owed $7.2 million next year and then $7.7 million the year after that. As per the new CBA, L.A. has the option of using their amnesty clause on him; essentially cutting Peace from the team and ensuring that his salary doesn’t work against their cap space. (They would still have to pay him, though. This just lessens the tax burden.)

According to ESPN’s Larry Coon (by way of Lakers Nation’s Ryan Ward), L.A. probably will in fact use their amnesty clause on him at some point in the foreseeable future:

“Mitch Kupchak has been trying to move World Peace, and if he fails it’s possible he will use the amnesty clause in order to take a bite out of the team’s tax bill.”

So that’s what probably what will happen. But it’s not the only viable option.

A month or so ago, diehard Lakers fan and Twitter must-follow @DrewUnga laid out an interesting scenario where L.A. could amnesty Pau Gasol. Via that piece:

Using the amnesty on either Blake or Metta isn’t going to save them much. In a perfect world they would find a trade involving Gasol that would could reduce the team payroll as well as enable them to save their amnesty for either Blake or Metta.

If that’s not enough evidence for you, there is one other reason why I think the Lakers will try to trade Pau. Because they already tried to.

Let’s say the Lakers can’t find a trading partner for Pau. Say they amnesty him. The $75 million they have committed for five guys goes down to about $56 million for four guys and while the team might get worse, it’s better for the long-term health of the franchise. If they can get under the luxury tax it would give them use of the full mid-level exception — a valuable addition for a team that might only have one player under contract for the 2014-15 season. Amnestying Pau might also give them a little bit of  cap space with which to bid on a player who is amnestied by one of the other 23 teams who have yet to use their amnesty. So while amnestying Pau hurts the Lakers chances for 2013-14, it accelerates their ability to reload in the long-term. The full mid-level exception is only available to teams over the salary cap and below the luxury tax. With so much cap space for 2014-15, the summer of 2013 might be the Lakers only realistic chance to add a quality role player with the full MLE going forward.

(Note: His article was published way before the Nash trade -- which he suggested would happen, by the way -- so the numbers aren’t exactly the same anymore. The they-might-amnesty-Gasol aspect of it remains the same, though. You should read his entire article to get a big picture look at where the squad can go from here.)

By trading for Nash, L.A. has more or less signaled that they’re all in with their Kobe-Gasol-Andrew Bynum trifecta. The odds of them using the amnesty clause on Gasol are slim – but it’s still an interesting thing to think about.

More likely than not, it’s Peace who will be amnestied sooner or later.  

Get more Lakers news and rumors on Twitter: @agroberman

(Kudos Lakers Nation, Larry Coon, @DrewUnga)

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