NBA, union settle "Bird" rights dispute
NEW YORK (AP) The NBA and the players' association have reached a settlement that clarifies some rights that Jeremy Lin and three other players have entering free agency.
The rule will now be that players who are claimed from waivers will have the same ``Early Bird'' rights as if they had been traded, but will not have full ``Bird'' rights unless they are claimed through the league's amnesty procedure.
That helps the New York Knicks' chances of keeping Lin, their breakout point guard, and Steve Novak, who led the league in 3-point shooting percentage last season. The Knicks will be able to sign both without being restricted by the salary cap.
Chauncey Billups and J.J. Hickson are the other players who could benefit when free agency opens Sunday. All four had been waived this season and claimed by other teams.
The ``Bird'' exception allows teams to sign their own free agent to a first-year maximum salary if he has played for some or all of each of the prior three consecutive seasons, or if he changed teams, did so by trade.
The ``Early Bird'' exception applies to those who played for a team for each of the previous two seasons, and if he changed teams, did so by trade.
However, the union argued that the rights should also apply to players claimed off waivers, and an arbitrator agreed last week. The NBA appealed, and agreed to drop its appeal with Friday's agreement.
Billups and Hickson will have full ``Bird'' rights. Billups was waived through amnesty by the Knicks, wiping his salary away for cap and tax purposes, and eventually Lin inherited the point guard spot. Billups ended up claimed by the Clippers.
Lin and Novak will have ``Early Bird'' rights. The Knicks have repeatedly said they planned to re-sign Lin no matter what.