If there is a hard cap, will the league provide teams with an amnesty clause? How would it work?
The 2005 CBA included a clause referred to as the "Luxury Tax Amnesty Provision." It allowed teams to waive one player whose salary would then be excluded from the team's luxury tax calculations. This clause was added because the league changed its luxury tax system in the 2005 agreement. Teams made their roster decisions based on the terms of the 1999 agreement, and might have planned differently had the 2005 rules been in place at the time. The provision was seen as a way of accommodating teams that may have been impacted by these rule changes.
This year the league wants to change more than just the luxury tax system -- it wants to make fundamental changes to the salary-cap system itself. Depending on how the negotiations turn out, these changes could be as severe as implementing a hard cap with which teams must immediately comply.
If the league makes a fundamental change to the salary-cap rules, it is expected to follow suit with another amnesty provision to accommodate the impacted teams. Such a provision would likely allow teams to waive one player, whose salary would then be excluded from the team's salary-cap calculations. The player would still be paid in full -- for example, Orlando couldn't use such a provision to escape its commitment to pay Gilbert Arenas the $62.3 million he is owed over the next three seasons.
The owners' proposal which included a $45 million hard cap reportedly also included such a provision. But the final determination won't be made until the two sides actually come to terms on a new agreement. The specific workings of an amnesty provision -- or whether a provision is included at all -- ultimately will depend on the changes that are made to the salary-cap system. It's possible that the next agreement will include an amnesty provision that can be used on more than one player, or can be used more than once during the lifetime of the agreement.