USA TODAY Sports
Knicks owner James Dolan (Right) plots how he will spend his money this off-season.
NBA teams are allowed to exceed the $58.5 million salary cap for a variety of reasons, including going over the cap to keep their own players. These reasons are referred to in the CBA as "exceptions." Here's a look at a few of the different exceptions:
LARRY BIRD EXCEPTION: Named after a Celtic legend, "This exception allows teams to exceed the cap in order to re-sign their own free agents, up to the player's maximum salary. Teams are said to have "Bird rights" to players who qualify. To qualify for this exception a player essentially must play for three seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams as a free agent..." (via Larry Coon's CBA FAQ)
No player currently on the Knicks' roster qualifies for the Larry Bird Exception.
EARLY BIRD EXCEPTION: This is a lesser form of the Larry Bird Exception that allows teams to re-sign their own free agents. In order for a player to qualify for the Early Bird Exception, he must have played for two seasons without clearing waivers or changing teams. The team may re-sign the free agent for up to 175 percent of his salary in the previous season.
J.R. Smith qualifies for this exception. The Knicks can offer him 175 percent of his $2,806,452 2012-13 contract, which equals out to a starting salary of $4,911,291 and increases over each season.
NON-TAXPAYER MID-LEVEL EXCEPTION: A team below the "apron," or either below the salary cap or less than $4 million over the salary cap, may offer any free agent a contract of up to $5.150 million in the 2013-14 season. The team can also break the exception up to sign several free agents, so long as the contracts total up to $5.150 million.
The Knicks, with a payroll upwards of $73 million, do not qualify for this exception.
TAXPAYER (MINI) MID-LEVEL EXCEPTION: Teams that are above the apron, or $4 million or more above the salary cap, may sign a free agent for up to $3.183 million in 2013-14. Like the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, this can be broken up to sign multiple free agents, so long as the contracts add up to $3.183 million.
The N.Y. Knicks can use this exception to retain the rights to SF Chris Copeland.
And last but not least:
MINIMUM PLAYER SALARY EXCEPTION: This exception allows teams to sign players at minimum contracts no matter how far over the cap they are.
The Knicks will need to make full use of this exception. After using the Mini Mid-Level Exception and the Early Bird Exception, they will only have nine players on the payroll.
There are nuances, stipulations and even more exceptions to each exception. For a more in-depth look at the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, check out Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.