It hardly mitigates the frustration or impact stemmed from Steve Nash sitting out the entire 2014-15 season because of recurring back issues. But the NBA awarded the Lakers with a $4.85 million disabled player exception that represents half of Nash’s salary slated to make this season.
The Lakers can use that exception either to sign a player through free agency or a waiver claim worth that amount. Or the Lakers could trade for a player who is worth up to $4.95 million. The Lakers also have a $1.5-million disabled player exception for rookie forward Julius Randle, who broke his right leg in the season opener and will miss the remainder of the season. Yet, it is currently unclear if the Lakers will actually use these spending tools that expire on March 10, 2015.
If the Lakers trade Nash’s expiring $9.8 million contract, the exception would expire. But that seems unlikely a team would want to take on salary of an injured player who will likely retire following this season. The scenario would entail a team hoping to clear salary amid a lost season.
The Lakers could also apply for a disabled player exception for forward Xavier Henry, who will miss the rest of the season because of a ruptured left Achilles. But that would only represent half of Henry’s $1.1 million salary, making it difficult to add a replacement. None of the exceptions can be combined or used with another player’s contract in a trade.
With forward Ryan Kelly out for at least five more weeks with a torn right hamstring, the Lakers are also eligible for the hardship exception. The NBA allows teams to exceed having 15 players on their roster if they have four players out. Once Kelly would return, the Lakers would have to trim their roster size from 16 to 15. But the Lakers only have non-guaranteed contracts to Wayne Ellington and Ronnie Price.