Arbitrator Sides with NBPA: Knicks Big Winners
Breaking news out of New York City this afternoon, which will have major impact on the offseason activity of the Knicks. Howard Beck of the New York Times is reporting that “arbitrator, Kenneth Dam, issued his ruling Friday, siding with the National Basketball Players Association, which challenged the N.B.A.’s interpretation of the rules under the collective bargaining agreement. Dam handed the union a complete victory in the ruling.” The arbitrator’s decision means that both Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, who the Knicks signed off waivers last December, will be granted “early-Bird Rights.”
Roger Montgomery, who represents Lin, confirmed the ruling. He was informed of the decision on Friday morning and described this as “a great victory for the NBPA.”
Under the previous interpretation of the CBA, the Knicks would have still been able to re-sign Lin, but would have likely been forced to use their full mid-level exception in order to bring the talented young point guard back to New York. Then they would have been left with only the bi-annual exception and veterans minimums to entice prospective free agents. As a result, they likely would have lost sharpshooter Novak to a competitor.
However, today’s ruling changes the landscape dramatically. Its impact on both the immediate and long-term future of the Knicks franchise is undeniable. Not only will GM Glen Grunwald be able to bring back Lin and Novak, he can do so without touching the mid-level exception. This means New York can now offer its mid-level to another player(s).
Depth, or lack thereof, was a major issue for the Knicks last season. This ruling allows New York to retain their top three-point shooter and their best point guard, and then spend the mid-level million addressing other needs.
HOOPSWORLD’s Larry Coon addressed the amount of money New York can spend this summer thusly: “Just to clarify on the Knicks — they can spend their Mid-Level on anyone they choose. But if they go over $3 million, it comes at the cost of living with a hard cap at about $74M for the entire season. They won’t be able to exceed the hard cap for any reason. Because of this, I think it’s very unlikely that they will choose to spend more than $3M of their Mid-Level. As long as they stay under $3M, no hard cap…”
It was expected that the Players Association would lose the ruling, and as a result, it was assumed the Knicks would have to target aging veterans or unproven youngsters to flesh out their roster. Now, they will be major players for some of the top-level free agent talent available. Steve Nash, Ray Allen, Raymond Felton, and Lamar Odom are just a few of the names that will be bandied about by Knicks fans over the next few weeks. It is obviously too early to start speculating about who Grunwald might make a serious run at; however, the Knickerbockers can now set their sights higher than could have realistically been imagined just a few hours ago.
Update: The NBA sent out a press release confirming that Kenneth Dam had ruled “that players who are claimed off of waivers have the same “Bird” or “Early Bird” rights that they would have if they were traded.” However, the NBA memo ends with this final sentence: “The NBA will appeal the ruling.”
To be continued…