June 13 Will Be a Big Day for Knicks

Hearing set in arbitration case for Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak

By Josh Alper
|  Wednesday, May 30, 2012  |  Updated 2:02 PM EDT
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The future of these celebrations is in the hands of an arbitrator.

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The Knicks season is over so, naturally, we turn our attention to the court.

Wait, what?

It's not a basketball court that will hold our attention come June 13, but the court of legal affairs. Being totally truthful, it's not actually a court at all but a hearing with an arbitrator about the Bird rights of players acquired on waivers.

For those not intimately familiar with the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, Bird rights (named after Larry Bird) enable teams to exceed the salary cap to sign their own free agents. They currently do not apply to players claimed off waivers, something the union would like to change because they see such acquisitions as being akin to players retaining those rights after getting traded.

It's significant for the Knicks because they have two players -- Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak -- who would see their status change with a favorable ruling. If the arbitrator rules in favor of the union, the Knicks could re-sign both players while also keeping their $5 million salary cap exception open for a player from the outside.

You don't have to look far to see suggestions of players that could fill that role. Steve Nash's name hasn't lost its allure because Mike D'Antoni skipped town and Lamar Odom has also reportedly expressed some interest in establishing a beach head for the Kardashians in our neck of the woods.

Jim Cavan does a good job of breaking down why Odom is an interesting prospect in The New York Times, but the whole thing feels unrealistically premature until we know the deal with Lin and Novak. As previously discussed, losing the arbitration case would leave the Knicks with very little chance to bring back both players (and J.R. Smith) while also upgrading in other spots.

Unfortunately, that seems like the likeliest outcome of the arbitration. The CBA was just redone last year and it includes no provision for waived players, which would seem to be a pretty major stumbling block. 

It's just about all the hope the Knicks have to swing the pendulum this offseason, though. There's no first-round pick, no big expiring contract to dangle in a trade and a looming fear that next year's team will be even thinner than one that found minutes for Mike Bibby.

Those are not pleasant thoughts to have, so you might as well stow them next to thoughts of Nash and Odom for the next two weeks. Once June 13 rolls around, you'll know which ones to break out of storage. 

Until then, it's rooting for an arbitrator to rule in the union's favor. Just your typically reasonable Knicks offseason.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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