Long before a New York Knicks game is played in the 2013 season. Even before a player is signed or drafted for next season’s team, all focus should be diverted to what happens on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.
That date has nothing to do with who takes a 1-0 series lead in the NBA Finals, but instead on the decision an arbitrator rules on whether or not teams are allowed to keep the Bird rights of waived players. In fact, this single decision is hands down the most important decision as it relates to the future of the franchise.
The simple way to put it is like this.
The Larry Bird provision allows teams to exceed the salary cap to sign their own players to new contracts. But the league contends these rights are not extended to players who were picked up off waivers. The union disagrees with that interpretation, and no cases related to the dispute have arisen until this year.
If you haven’t been paying attention since the Knicks season ended at the hands of the Miami Heat, if the decision goes in the favor of Billy Hunter and the Players Union, the Knicks will retain the Bird rights of bother Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, which will be huge for the franchise going forward. That will allow general manager Glen Grunwald to retain both without having to use any of the Knicks $5 million mid-level exception.
Grunwald can then use that money to improve other needed areas, which include point guard and frontcourt depth.
However, if the decision goes the other way, the Knicks are in trouble.
With the Knicks already over the salary cap, they will be forced to use their MLE to retain Lin, or even worse, watch him leave as a free agent. In addition, that means Novak is all but gone as well.
If Grunwald has to spend more than $3 million of that MLE to re-sign Lin, the Knicks could also be faced with a hard cap next season, which all but eliminates any chances of improving the team during the season.
In addition, the Knicks will have no money to improve the team, so the bench will likely be made up of J.R. Smith (if he opts-in) and a collection of players earning the veterans minimum. That’s not the recipe for contending.
In addition, without Lin’s Bird rights, if they sign him long-term, that money will count towards the cap in the future. With the potential of having Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all signed to long-term deals, the Knicks could find themselves in a bad spot during almost every offseason in the near future.
If Knicks fans want to contend for a championship anytime in the near future, then everyone will have their fingers crossed that this ruling goes in favor of the players.
If it doesn’t this will be one of many future summer’s faced with tough offseason decisions.