The Clippers appeared to suffer a huge blow last night when Chauncey Billups went down with what could be a serious achilles injury. We're still waiting for the official word on Billups' status, but it looks like the injury may prematurely end his season. Unfortunately for the Clippers, even if Billups were ruled out for the season, the team can't take advantage of the NBA's disabled player rule to replace him on their roster.
The disabled player exception is one of many salary cap exceptions included in the CBA to allow teams over the cap to acquire players. If a player suffers a season-ending injury, his team can apply for an exception worth 50% of his salary or the amount of the nontaxpayer mid-level exception (whichever is lesser). If the league approves the exception, it can be used in the next 45 days to make an acquisition via trade or free agency.
According to Larry Coon, CBA expert and author of the CBA FAQ, the league's new Collective Bargaining Agreement allows teams to apply for a disabled player exception between July 1st and January 15th each season, regardless of when the injury occurred. As such, teams who suffer season-ending injuries from here on out won't have the chance to acquire a cap exception to replace the sidelined player this season.
In Billups' case, such an exception would have had minimal value anyway — the Clippers are only paying about $2MM of the point guard's salary after the Knicks amnestied him, so an exception would only have been worth $1MM or so. Still, considering the team just used its mini mid-level to sign Kenyon Martin and still has interest in J.R. Smith, every bit of flexibility would help.