Injured New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin reacts during pregame ceremonies before the Knicks play against the Miami Heat in Game 2 of their first round NBA Eastern Conference basketball playoffs in Miami

NBA, union reach deal on Bird rights that is win for Knicks


This gets complex but here is the bottom line for Knicks fans — you can re-sign Jeremy Lin now and still have your mid-level exception to chase free agents such Steve Nash or Ray Allen this summer.

Remember last week that an arbitrator ruled in favor of the union — who filed on behalf of Lin, Steve Novak, Chauncey Billups and J.J. Hickson — saying that a player picked up off waivers retained his “Bird rights.”

“Bird rights” — named after Larry — are the rights of a team to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents. The league said the language of the new CBA said a player forfeited those rights when waived, the union and the arbiter disagreed.

But the league appealed, and the two sides negotiated toward a settlement. Here is how the league officially defined it.

Under the settlement, the union agreed to limit the scope of the ruling by arbitrator Kenneth Dam in exchange for the league’s agreement to drop its appeal. The rule will now be that players who are claimed from waivers will have the same “Early Bird” rights as if they had been traded, but will not have full “Bird” rights unless they are claimed through the league’s amnesty procedure.

“Early Bird” is what applies to Lin and Novak and is the weaker of the Bird rights, for players who have been with a team two years (it’s more complex and nuanced than that, read about the details at Larry Coon’s CBAFAQ if you want).

Bottom line, this is a win for the players union. Billups was amnestied and claimed via amnesty so he keeps his Bird rights.

And it is a win for the Knicks. They can re-sign Lin and chase a free agent. While they can use the full $5 million mid-level exception to sign a free agent, if they do they likely go over the luxury tax line ($70 million) and trigger a hard cap on themselves at $74 million. More than likely, they only offer $3 million to free agents. However, there are scenarios where the Knicks could shed some salary and keep Lin and a $5 million free agent.

It’s a win for the Knicks to start the summer.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.