Amnesty for Jefferson still on table

With the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement still days away from official ratification, front offices across the league are not yet fully open for business. Still, for teams hoping to upgrade their roster, there is still much work to be done between now and Dec. 9, the date when the starters’ pistol simultaneously sounds on free agency and the opening of training camps.

At his news conference Friday afternoon, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich detailed some of the task at hand.

“That’s what we’re doing now: Trying to decide who we want to sign and what free agents to go after and do we want to make any trades,” Popovich said. “That’s all going on right now and that’s the emphasis between now and training camp opening.”

It’s safe to say the Spurs have many balls in the air, and many scenarios in play. One they appear to be seriously considering, based on their free-agent target list so far: Using the amnesty provision on Richard Jefferson.

The Spurs are believed to have been in contact with representatives of at least four free-agent small  forwards: Dallas’ Caron Butler, former New Jersey Net Bostjan Nachbar and Washington Wizards Josh Howard and Maurice Evans.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the Spurs have already decided to waive Jefferson, who has three years and nearly $30.5 million left on his deal . It only means that option is on the table, and general manager R.C. Buford is apparently preparing for that contingency.

Using amnesty on Jefferson, who has mostly underwhelmed in two seasons in San Antonio but did shoot a career-best 44 percent from beyond the arc last  year, would allow the Spurs to get well below the luxury tax line.

That would give them access to the full mid-level exception, worth $5 million, and the only shot they’d have at Butler, who is said to prefer Chicago anyway. The Spurs could probably keep Jefferson and still chase Howard, Nachbar or Evans, but after claiming losses last season, team chairman Peter Holt might have extra incentive to move below the tax line anyway

If the Spurs are going to make a significant roster splash, they might be more likely to do it via the trade market than free agency. Antonio McDyess’ $5.2 million contract is only guaranteed for $2.6 million. He could bring back decent value from a team looking to slice payroll, especially since he could retire anyway.

As it stands, the Spurs will have as many as 13 players under contract if and when they sign their two first-round rookies, Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph.

“Everybody’s got to put their team together,” Popovich said. “Some people have a lot of guys signed, like we do. Some teams don’t have very many guys. And of course we’re all calling the same agents about the same free agents.”

The upshot, as training camp approaches?

“I don’t know how it’s going to look or who’s going to be here Friday,” Popovich said.

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