The NBA’s amnesty era is under way.
Taking advantage of the league’s new get-out-of-a-contract card, the Orlando Magic waived Gilbert Arenas and the $62 million he was owed over the next three seasons as one of the very first moves after the lockout formally ended, and the New York Knicks were preparing to use the clause on Chauncey Billups — a precursor to adding Tyson Chandler as a free agent from the champion Dallas Mavericks.
There was Dwight Howard trade talk, widespread reaction over the NBA’s decision to reject a proposed trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, and dozens of moves in short order as teams worked briskly to start filling their rosters for a rapidly approaching season.
And finally, rookies could become, well, rookies. Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick this year, signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as did No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson. In Minnesota, No. 2 pick Derrick Williams practiced with the expectation his deal would be signed no later than Saturday, and Utah signed, among others, No. 3 pick Enes Kanter.
A number of teams worked out with very small groups, barely enough to play even 3-on-3 in some cases.
“It’s good to be back on the court, to hear the balls bouncing and see your teammates,” Heat forward LeBron James said. “It’s a great day to be back.”
The biggest news was likely yet to come, and New York was in the epicenter of speculation.
Chandler was on his way to New York, though was not yet a member of the Knicks. A person with knowledge of the Knicks‘ plans told The Associated Press that the team is planning to use the amnesty clause to waive Billups and possibly make other moves before having the ability to free up space for Chandler and what could be a $58 million deal over four years.
Howard showed up for the start of Magic camp, amid reports that he was seeking a trade to New Jersey. Orlando was close to making one trade, working on finalizing a deal to acquire Glen Davis from the Boston Celtics for Brandon Bass.
“Baby was terrific for us. He was,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said about Davis. “It will be different. We had an emotional conversation. I wish him well.”
The Magic made a slew of other moves, including the signings of veteran guard Larry Hughes and former Boston draft pick Gabe Pruitt.
Arenas still gets his money, of course — amnesty only means that teams can rid themselves of salary for cap and luxury-tax calculation purposes.
Teams could begin signing players and completing other transactions at 2 p.m. Friday, with most set to begin practice shortly afterward. The lockout lasted more than five months, leading to a shortened 66-game season that starts on Christmas Day. With about two weeks to set rosters, teams were expected to make dozens of moves Friday.
A day after the Paul trade fell apart, the All-Star guard showed up for work in New Orleans. In Los Angeles, Pau Gasol — another part of the deal, he was to be sent to Houston — was at Lakers camp. Lamar Odom, who was presumed to be bound for New Orleans, showed up more than 90 minutes late for that first practice of the post-Phil Jackson-era, then left after meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak.