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

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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.