Tuesday, July 17, 2012 marks the deadline for NBA teams to decide whether or not they want to use their Amnesty Clause rights and waive a player on their roster. The Amnesty Clause was put into the CBA during lockout negotiations by owners to help eliminate bad contracts already on their books.
This clause allows teams an opportunity to waive a player and have their contract removed from payroll, meaning, the formerly guaranteed money would no longer count against the team’s salary cap or luxury tax. Teams can exercise this option just once between 2011 and 2016, and are only eligible to do so in the week following the moratorium period of that year.
Only players whose contracts were signed before the 2011-2012 season are at risk. A waived player can then be claimed by teams through the waiver wire at a reduced salary and given to the highest bidder. But, there is somewhat of a catch: since all NBA contracts are guaranteed, the waiving team remains responsible for any salary balance owed to that player.
That brings us to the current state of the Washington Wizards and Andray Blatche. Blatche, a second round pick by the Washington Wizards, 49th overall, was an obvious candidate to be amnestied. One could argue, aside from former Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and his off the court troubles, Blatche most represented everything wrong with the state of the team today.
Blatche is a fixture of DC nightlife, hosting parties on almost a nightly basis. It’s rumored his diet isn’t befitting a professional athlete. His troubles, both on and off of the court, have been well documented. Since being drafted in 2005, he’s been charged with sexual solicitation (2007), and arrested for reckless driving while driving with a suspended license (2008), his third time being charged with the latter. In January 2010 the Wizards fined Blatche $10,000 for participating in Gilbert Arenas’ immature pregame antics following Arenas’ reported altercation with then-teammate Javaris Crittenton.
Blatche ended the last half of the 2009-2010 season with somewhat of a bang. With the Wizards organization tearing up the team in all-out rebuilding mode, Andray had the most impressive stretch of his career. Given a more prominent role and elevated minutes, Blatche was able to win over the Wizards front office going into the upcoming year.
In late June 2010 during the offseason, Blatche suffered a broken foot which required surgery. At the time, it was expected his injury would keep him sidelined for three months. It was rumored that he broke his foot playing basketball at Barry Farms courts in Washington, DC, but he says the injury happened while working out at the Verizon Center.
On September 24, 2010, with one season left in Blatche’s contract, Washington signed him to a contract extension that would pay him $35 million over the next five years. By taking this approach, Washington hoped to encourage Blatche to play team basketball. With an extended contract secured, perhaps Blatche wouldn’t feel pressure to elevate his individual numbers before the next summer.
Needless to say, those plans didn’t quite come to fruition.
Blatche had a mediocre 2011 campaign but was able to moderately improve his numbers, playing a career high in minutes. Coming into the lockout-shortened season of 2011-2012, Flip Saunders, then-head coach of the Wizards, named Andray a team captain. This was done in an effort to center the young forwards’ focus on basketball. Saunders hoped the added responsibility would make Blatche more of a role model for some of his younger teammates.
Almost a full month into the season, Flip Saunders was relieved of his duties as head coach, and a few months later—March 20 of this year—Andray Blatche was benched indefinitely by Coach Randy Wittman due to lack of conditioning.
Washington’s recent efforts to trade to trade Blatche were not successful, and on July 17, 2012 the Wizards were forced to amnesty their once-beloved power forward. Ted Leonsis may not be thrilled with the fact that he still owes Andray a check, but he must love that his team can move forward and build a future around former number one overall pick John Wall and 2012 third overall pick Bradley Beal.
Blatche’s time in DC may not garner many positive basketball memories, but Wizards fans will never forget him.