Even though they agreed to a rather unilateral choice of words that are quite clear in their intention, the NBA Player’s Association are trying to bend a CBA rule that they only just signed off to. Supposedly misleading terminology with regards to quite when a player’s “Bird rights clock” resets — as to whether it resets upon being placed on waivers, or upon clearing them — has seen an action brought that might change the status of some players, for example Chauncy Billups, heading into this summer’s free agency period.
There wasn’t any confusion about it until someone decided it would be really convenient if there was, but anyhoo.
If the action is successful — which it surely won’t be, but still — no one stands to gain more from this than the New York Knicks. Very, very few are ever claimed off waivers, yet the Knicks currently have two such players obtained in this way; not only that, the two were big contributors this season. Without Steve Novak and Jeremy Lin, an unsatisfactory Knicks season would have been an outright disaster.
If the NBPA’s “our bad, we didn’t mean that, can we have another go?” legal argument is successful, the Knicks will thus have early Bird rights on both Lin and Novak. They will then be able to spend an amount up to (and in fact slightly exceeding) the mid-level exception, without having to use their actual mid-level exception to do so, in re-signing them, as opposed to the barely-above-minimum contracts that non-Bird rights offer. If the action is successful.
However, if the NBPA’s claim isn’t successful, the Knicks are in a bind. They’ll now have these two key players as free agents, and likely a third, too, as J.R. Smith has a player option for next season. If he also opts out, he too will have only non-Bird rights, and can be re-signed for only 120 percent of this year’s salary, as-near-as-is $2.8 million. Failing that, he too will cost some or all of the MLE. And failing that, he’s leaving. The Knicks didn’t have very many key contributors this season, and yet three of them may be about to bail because the Knicks just can’t pay them.