I’ve noticed some confusion about the NBA Players Association’s dispute on Bird Rights. So I just want to simplify things a bit and untangle some of the confusion as it pertains to Jeremy Lin. Without going into too much detail, which would further confuse, here’s the gist of it.
The main intention of Bird Rights is give teams the ability to re-sign star veterans to maximum contracts (a figure calculated based on the number of years a player has played in the league) even if it puts the team over their salary cap. There’s several other details, such as the player has to be playing on the same team or contract for three consecutive years to get Bird rights. The catch is, that if a player is traded, he and his new team retains his Bird rights if he plays out his 3-year contract with the new team. Bird rights currently don’t apply to players that are taken off waivers, which Lin and Novak were. This has never been considered, because players that come off waivers don’t become stars. So no one really cared about giving Bird Rights to players off waivers before. But now that Lin (and Novak) have become stars, the player’s union is trying to argue that players coming off waivers should have Bird Rights in tact, because a new contract was never drawn up. This is important for the Knicks hopes of keeping Lin (and Novak), because it allows the Knicks to match any offer from another team (including back loaded offers), without it affecting their salary cap. Right now, the Knicks are severely hindered, because of their salary cap situation. If they keep Lin, they may need to use their full MLE (mid-level exception) worth $5 million and basically won’t be able to keep Novak or even go after another player, like Nash. I, for one, don’t want Lin to stay with the Knicks for his own sake, so I’m hoping the NBPA loses their case.
If the NBAPA wins their case, then Knicks can match any offer (without being worried about going over their salary cap) and Lin is forced to stay with the Knicks, since Lin is a RESTRICTED free agent. This is why in theory, Bird rights is advantageous for BOTH players and teams, because teams don’t have to take into consideration their salary cap when making offers to players with Bird Rights, so players have a good chance of getting the maximum contract. So that’s why the NBAPA is taking this opportunity to better define the terms surrounding Bird Rights and expand its application. Since I don’t think it is advantageous for Lin’s development to have him stay with the Knicks, I’m hoping the NBAPA loses their case, because that is the ONLY chance Lin has to get picked up by another team, since he’s a RESTRICTED free agent. Because if the NBAPA loses their case, then Lin doesn’t have Bird rights, so the Knicks will have a lot of difficulty matching a very lucrative back-loaded contract by another team, since it will really hurt their salary cap. I’m not saying that the Knicks can’t match. I’m saying that it would be ill-advised for the Knicks to match, because they’ll be dealing with a lot of salary cap issues down the road. Knowing Dolan and his short-sighted decision-making, he’ll probably do it anyway. Hope that all makes sense.
This is pure speculation on my part, but I think there’s a very good chance that the NBAPA will win the case. Before Jeremy Lin, Bird rights weren’t given to players coming off waivers because there was no reason for it. But Jeremy provides a clear case in which there’s reason for it. So if you don’t want Lin to stay with the Knicks, then this is not good news, because if the Player Union wins this case, then I’m 100% certain that Lin will stay with the Knicks, because without any salary cap issues, Dolan will match any offer from any team no matter how outrageous (and I have a feeling that offers for Lin will get pretty outrageous). Dolan knows how valuable Lin is–especially marketing-wise. And Dolan also loves big name players and there’s no bigger name in sports right now than Jeremy Lin. So he’ll do everything in his power to retain Lin. To make matters worst, Lin will probably be signing a multi-year contract with the Knicks, since other teams will back-load their offers for Lin (meaning giving him a four year contract, for example, so they can increase the third and fourth year of the deal significantly) and the Knicks will be forced to match the offer if they want to retain Lin, which they most certainly will.
Anyway, if you are rooting for Lin to leave the Knicks for his own sake, then things aren’t looking good. For the most part, Lin’s future is in the hands of the Knicks, since he’s a restricted free agent. The only way out for Lin is the Knicks awful salary cap situation. But if the NBAPA wins their case, then Lin essentially loses his only way out of the Knicks, because salary cap won’t be an issue in retaining Lin. All that being said, in the bigger scheme of things, Lin will still get to play the game he loves, most likely in a starting role–a dream that seemed impossible before February. So Lin will be just fine. Lin has dealt with way more adversity in the past so he’ll be able to handle anything that comes his way as long as he continues to use his wisdom and assert his will. Also, I think with Lin the Knicks have the missing piece to be serious contenders next season. We had a sampling of how great the Knicks could be under Woodson with Lin, Stat, Melo, Chandler all together. They went 6-1, but more importantly they didn’t just win, they demolished teams–including a back-to-back beating of a hot Indiana Pacers team. So Lin could be a part of a deep playoff run if he stays with the Knicks. That couldn’t be bad. Just looking at things on the bright side. So Lin fans need not worry too much about Lin.