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Lewenberg: Raptors cut ties with Kleiza, add Buycks

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Josh Lewenberg
7/16/2013 7:28:47 PM
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TORONTO - In a cost-cutting move intended to avoid the increasingly punitive penalties tied to the NBA's restructured luxury tax, the Raptors have used the amnesty provision to waive forward Linas Kleiza. The team announced the move on Tuesday.

Kleiza, 28, was set to enter the final season of a four-year deal he signed with Toronto in 2010 and is owed $4.6 million in 2013-14. The Raptors will still have to pay the remaining amount owed to Kleiza but his contract will not count against the team's salary cap.

The Raptors, who were projected to be over the luxury tax line with Kleiza's contract on the books, find themselves roughly $2.5 million under the threshold after cutting the forward. Additionally, they can now reap the rewards of remaining a non-taxpaying team, which include a larger mid-level exception and a share of the money collected from taxpaying teams at season end.

Both Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri have indicated that the organization would be willing to pay the league's tax in the event that they were funding a contending team. However, it would be a lot tougher to justify missing out on the aforementioned benefits awarded to non-taxpayers to field a team that figures to be a middling group in the Eastern Conference.

Ujiri had hoped to move Kleiza's expiring contract for a draft pick but the forward has minimal trade value, if any, as a result of the knee injuries that have plagued him throughout his tenure in Toronto. Kleiza underwent surgery on his right knee in 2011 and has been slowed by the injury ever since. He last played on Dec. 26 and appeared in just 20 games last season, averaging 7.4 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting just 33 per cent from the field.

Following the 2011 NBA lockout each team was granted one amnesty clause to be used prior to the expiration of the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams who have yet to use their lone amnesty clause have a one-week window to utilize the provision each summer following the July moratorium period. This year, the amnesty window closes at 12:00am ET Wednesday July 17.

Kleiza averaged 9.8 points and 4.0 rebounds in 108 contests over three seasons with the Raptors.

Buycks on Board

The Raptors finalized an agreement with guard Dwight Buycks (pronounced Bikes) on Tuesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Buycks, 24, won league MVP playing in France last season -- averaging 18.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game -- after collecting first-team all-rookie honours with the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League the year prior. He went undrafted out of Marquette in 2011.

Buycks' story is one of perseverance. After several years of chasing his NBA dream in the D-League and overseas, he continued to turn heads playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Orlando Summer League earlier this month. The Milwaukee native averaged 9.5 points and 6.0 assists in four games for the undefeated Thunder team before Ujiri and the Raptors expressed interest in the point guard.

He made his Toronto debut, getting the start for the Raptors' Summer League team in Las Vegas Tuesday.

With the reported signing of Julyan Stone on hold -- and now appearing unlikely -- as the former Nuggets guard rehabs nagging hip and knee injuries, the Raptors will look to add a more experienced back-up point guard for the veteran's minimum.

Linas Kleiza (Photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)
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