Jeremy Lin, union wins “Bird rights” arbitration, which is good for Knicks

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The New York Knicks offseason just got brighter.

In an unexpected decision, an arbitrator ruled for Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak — backed by the NBA players union — saying that players picked up on waivers (like Lin and Novak were) can be re-signed by their team using their “Bird rights” (the rights of a team to go over the salary cap to re-sign its own free agents). The league had argued that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement says once a player went on waivers he forfeited his Bird rights.

“Bird and Early Bird rights are the lynchpin of our soft cap system, and we’re pleased that (the arbiter) Professor Dam recognized that a player does not forfeit these important rights unless he makes an affirmative decision to sign with a new team as a free agent,” NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter said in a released statement?

The league has said it will appeal the ruling.

Why is this ruling good for the Knicks? They can now re-sign Lin for about $5 million and still have a mid-level exception to offer to a free agent player they want to court. Whether that be Steve Nash or whomever.

However, as ESPN salary cap guru Larry Coon pointed out on twitter, don’t look for the Knicks to use their entire $5 million mid-level exception to go after these free agents. If the Knicks re-sign Lin then go over $3 million (the mini mid-level) for a free agent they will trigger a $74 million hard salary cap on themselves that they cannot exceed for any reason. That’s the new rules in this CBA (you get the cap when you use a non-taxpayer exception and it makes you a tax payer). Trigger that hard cap and the Knicks cannot even bring in a player on a veteran minimum deal if it takes them over te $. New York would want no part of that scenario that strips them of their flexibility to adjust the roster in season, so look for them to try to lure a free agent with $3 million.

Still, this gives the Knicks the chance to add a player of quality. Which they need to do because the road to the top of the East now goes through Miami, and that is a tough road to travel.