NBA's Settlement with NBPA Gives Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak Early-Bird Rights
After apparently intending to appeal an arbitrator's ruling in favor of the NBA Players Association, David Stern and the NBA have reversed course and reached a settlement that will allow free agents Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak to retain their "Early Bird Rights" (via Newsday's Alan Hahn):
Maybe all that booing at the NBA Draft got to the commissioner after all.
Bird Rights allow a team to re-sign a player even when his new deal would force the team's collective contractual obligations to exceed the salary cap. It's an exception designed to spare veterans the need to change teams when they'd prefer to remain in place.
Typically, a player must have spent two years with his current team in order to be awarded Early Bird Rights, and three years for full-fledged Bird Rights.
The wrinkle in the cases of Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak is that they signed with the New York Knicks after having been previously waived.
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The NBA maintained that the subsequent changes of scenery forfeited those players' rights to the kind of cap exceptions a tenured veteran would ordinarily be afforded. Meanwhile, the Players Association maintained that being waived wasn't the players' faults, so they should receive the same benefits under their new teams.
Ultimately, the two sides were able to strike a compromise according to New Jersey Star-Ledger staff:
The two had been the beneficiary of an earlier ruling by an arbitrator that awarded the rights to them, causing the NBA to appeal. As a result of the settlement today, the scope of the ruling will be limited. Players claimed on waivers will have Early Bird rights but will only be granted full Bird rights if they were picked up after going through the amnesty procedure.
The agreement will enable the New York Knicks to potentially retain Jeremy Lin by signing him to a new deal rather than matching offers he accepts as a restricted free agent, a move that could certainly save the team some money.
It will also free the Knicks to use their mid-level cap exception to sign another player rather than having to spend it on Lin.
In other words, the deal makes it far more likely that New York will retain Lin and Novak, and it also provides the team with greater flexibility to improve its roster despite being so far over the cap.
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