Raptors Amnesty Kleiza: Ujiri's Hand Forced as Colangelo Era Continues to Produce Aftershocks

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

In a move most expected, the Toronto Raptors used their one-time amnesty clause to essentially cut forward Linas Kleiza, thereby saving a future luxury tax bill. However as Adam Francis notes, the move wasn't exactly an ideal one for new GM Masai Ujiri, who was backed into a bit of a corner by his predecessor's spend-happy ways.

Dwight Buycks is officially a Toronto Raptor, and Linas Kleiza is one no more.

I know.

Shocking.

The Toronto Raptors out of nowhere last night, used the amnesty clause provided by the latest NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, to essentially cut Kleiza from next year's roster.

I'm being sarcastic of course as the move was long-expected by most considering the Raptors were likely going to be paying the NBA's luxury tax without cutting salary of some sort. Using the amnesty clause on Kleiza, seemed like the most likely solution to their situation.

The taxes wouldn't be imposed until around this time next year, but Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri wanted to get this process over and done with now:

"We thought it was safer now to do it," said Ujiri. "Sometimes with those things it's on your mind the whole time and you don't want to end up doing something funny or losing something because you're trying to get under the tax later on."

It makes sense.

It's just too bad Ujiri had to do it at all.

One of the things that struck me yesterday is how this whole Kleiza situation is an example of the aftershock the organization is still feeling from Bryan Colangelo's reign of terror. Colangelo signed Kleiza of course to the four-year $18.8M dollar contract he never lived up to, but more importantly, it was BC's salary buffet last season that then made it virtually impossible for the organization to extract any value for Kleiza, even in a departing trade.

Think about this for a second.

To begin with, the Raptors only had three options to use the amnesty clause on: Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, and Amir Johnson.

Obviously Amir wasn't going anywhere so that left Bargs and Kleiza. Bargs was an ideal amnesty candidate in some ways because of the size and length of his deal, but as we know, Masai Ujiri managed to move him for other pieces in return.

That left Kleiza.

However Kleiza I'd argue was never a dream candidate for the amnesty clause because he was an expiring contract, something that is often a very useful piece in trades with club's looking to rebuild, or get under the NBA's luxury tax etc. In a perfect world, my bet was that Ujiri would have preferred to hold onto Kleiza, using him around the trade deadline, and therefore not used the amnesty move.

But as noted, Colangelo's spending spree last season put the team so far against the luxury tax threshold, that the club had no almost no option BUT to amnesty him. Some folks were wondering on Twitter yesterday why the official announcement of the Raptors' "amnestying" of Kleiza was taking so long, and part of me wondered if it wasn't because Ujiri was working the phones up to nearly the last minute, trying to find a taker for his oft-injured former Mizzou product.

If that was the case, nothing panned out and now Linas is free to hop on with one of the few teams below the salary cap who can claim him under CBA rules, or perhaps return to Europe. Who knows.

The bottom line is that this marks the removal of another remnant of the Colangelo regime, one that in all fairness, didn't seem to be an awful transaction at the time of the signing. Nearly three years ago I penned this piece about Kleiza's performance in that summer's International tourney, cautiously optimistic that he might be a boost to a beleaguered club.

However as we know, things just didn't work out for a variety of reasons, and now Linas Kleiza and his "Mizzou slang-meets-Lithuanian accent" will be best remembered by our HQ team via this video we shot during his introductory Media Day:


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