In an article yesterday on ESPN.com, Chad Ford and Marc Stein characterized Renaldo Balkman as the Knicks’ no-brainer to amnesty when the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. Further, they called it a “slam dunk” that the Knicks would exercise their one-time use of the amnesty clause this season, rather than holding off and using it down the road, as will be allowed under the new CBA.
All this might be true, but I hope it isn’t, because it’s needless and shortsighted. As I’m sure you’re all aware, the Knicks are capped out this season (owing roughly $60 million to 10 players not including the rookies) and, since they are looking to add another superstar player, in any event have no plans to offer free agents multi-year contracts this off-season. Cutting Balkman’s $1.675 million won’t create any additional payroll flexibility this off-season and it won’t present meaningful luxury tax savings (especially to a guy who’s proven all too often that he’s perfectly happy to set his money on fire). The Knicks may very well need to cut Balkman ultimately, but the time to do it is next offseason, not now.
Here’s why (and I recognize even considering this is controversial to some): The Knicks have a 28-year-old power forward (with 40-year-old knees) coming off a back injury it took months to recover from. This guy’s due about $85 million over the next 4 years. I love Amar’e. He’s my favorite Knick by far. But it’s hard to deny that it makes some sense for the Knicks to see how this season goes before foregoing the one chance they have to get out from under what might prove to be a crippling contract. Especially considering that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams will all be unrestricted free agents and there’s a decent chance the Knicks will have a new coach in 2012.
I appreciate that Amar’e is a cornerstone player and, in all likelihood, he’s going to be here for the long haul. If he remains healthy, this is a great thing. And even if a team uses the amnesty clause on a player, they still have to pay him his full salary and only 75% of it gets wiped away from the cap (with the remaining 25% amortized over several years). My point is this: What’s the rush? The Knicks have only one shot at using the amnesty provision and only one more shot at roster flexibility over the next 5-7 years.
Take a deep breath, slow down, and at least do the most you can to get it right.