Knicks Can Re-Sign Lin Without Cap Limit, Arbitrator Says

Jeremy Lin can re-sign with the New York Knicks without regard to the National Basketball Association’s salary cap under an arbitrator’s ruling today that gives the team freedom to go after other free agents.

Lin and Knicks teammate Steve Novak, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage last season, thus can re-sign with New York without cap limits. The Knicks also won’t need to utilize their mid-level salary cap exception to retain either player, allowing them to use it on a free agent like Steve Nash, a former NBA Most Valuable Player who has said he’s open to playing for New York.

The NBA said in a statement that it would appeal the ruling made by arbitrator Kenneth Dam, who agreed with the National Basketball Players Association argument that a player taken off waivers, such as Lin, should be considered the same as one acquired via trade.

“The arbitrator’s decision was exactly our argument,” Jeff Kessler, outside counsel to the union, said in a telephone interview. “The league conceded that this would have been covered under prior collective bargaining agreement language.”

The 2005 and 2011 labor contracts say players maintain their so-called Bird and Early Bird rights if they switch teams “by trade.” Bird rights are named for former Boston Celtics Hall of Fame player Larry Bird, and Early Bird rights are a form of the rule for players who have been in the league a shorter time.

Other players affected by the outcome are Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers and J.J. Hickson of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Lin is a Harvard University graduate who went from bench warmer to the Knicks’ starting point guard in February, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 assists per game as the team made the playoffs. He was signed by the Knicks as free agent in December after being cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

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