The Knicks' chances of re-signing Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, and still having money for other free agents, could improve greatly if an arbitrator rules in favor of an appeal the NBA players' union filed on their behalf Monday.
The union asked for a hearing to decide upon the "Bird rights" of Lin, Novak, former Knick Chauncey Billups and Portland's J.J. Hickson, according to Novak's agent, Mark Bartelstein, and another person close to the situation. All four were waived last year and believe they are entitled to Bird rights, which allow teams to exceed the cap in order to re-sign their own free agents.
"There's a question with regards to Steve's Bird rights," Bartelstein said. "We feel strongly that he should have them with the Knicks.''
The hearing hasn't been set yet but is expected to be "soon," Bartelstein said. Free agency starts July 1.
At stake for Lin and Novak are early-Bird rights, which would allow the Knicks to give them up to 104.5 percent of the average salary, or between $5.5 million and $6 million. It also would mean the Knicks wouldn't have to use the roughly $5.5-million midlevel exception or $1.9-million biannual exception on either player.
It was expected that most if not all of the Knicks' midlevel would go to Lin. Mike Woodson, who could be signed to a long-term deal as Knicks coach in the coming days, said Lin "absolutely" will be back. But the biannual might not be enough to keep Novak after his breakout season.
The Knicks had no comment on the union's filing. The union did not return calls seeking comment.
It could be difficult for the union to win because the rules of the CBA state that to be eligible for Bird rights, a player can't be waived or change teams as a free agent.
Bartelstein countered, "The view of the players association is when you go through waivers and someone claims you, your contract is assigned in the exact same manner it's assigned in a trade, so you should obtain your Bird rights."