The application was expected before the January 15th deadline. Nets general manager Billy King said at a press conference following Lopez’s season-ending foot injury that the Nets would apply for the exception. To get approval, the Nets would need clearance from an impartial NBA doctor that confirms Lopez’s injury will keep him out for the year.
If their application is approved as expected, the Nets will have a one-time chance until March 15th to replace Lopez on the roster by signing a free agent for up to $5.15 million, or trading for a player in the last year of his contract (options included), with a salary up to $5.25 million.
The application was mostly just for added options; given the restrictions, it’s unlikely they’ll use it at all.
The exception doesn’t open a roster spot. They’d need to waive someone or complete a 2-for-1 trade to open a roster spot up. If they waived a player, his salary — and luxury tax burden — would still be on the books.
That luxury tax burden would also apply to any player they sign with the Disabled Player Exception. If they signed a player to even a minimum salary, they’d play close to $5 million just in taxes alone. If they signed a player to the maximum $5.15 million, they’re looking at a bill close to $30 million. That’s an extraordinary price to pay for just for a few months of a player not good enough to have made a roster yet this season.
(Aside: though I understand why the NBA set up the luxury tax system this way, it seems odd to tax a team that’s using the Disabled Player Exception. The tax is meant to curtail reckless spending, not limit teams trying to fill holes caused by injury.)
Lopez had surgery on his right foot on January 4th to repair the break in the fifth metatarsal, with an additional procedure done to re-align the first metatarsal (the innermost metatarsal on the foot). The re-alignment was done with Lopez’s long-term foot health in mind.
“It’s a (bone) break. Talk to me in October, or this summer when he’s working out, and that’s all we can do,” King told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. “There’s not a magical answer I can give you guys to say to project into the future. I can only answer what the doctors told me. … That’s what it comes down to.”
Lopez has not spoken with the media since incurring the injury.