The Knicks have their first Jeremy Lin drama, and it’s not even the off-season yet

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Jeremy Lin in Toronto. (nba.com)
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The Thunder beat the Heat in Game 1, but the Knicks are focused on a different battle: the arbitration hearing today between the National Basketball Players' Association and the league.

At stake are the players' Bird Rights, or the right to sign those players for more than the salary cap allows, if they have been acquired via waivers. The Knicks have two such players you might be familiar with: Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak.

If the N.B.P.A. prevails, the Knicks can sign Lin, sign Novak, and have both a $5 million exception for next year's salary cap, and a $2 million exception. Suddenly signing Ray Allen becomes a possibility, and bringing in a backup point guard for Lin and a backup center for Tyson Chandler become infinitely easier.

If the N.B.A. prevails, the Knicks will need to use the $5 million on Lin and either hope Novak accepts the $2 million exception or set out to find a bargain replacement for him. And everyone else they sign will earn no more than the veteran minimum.

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And if you simply believe the Knicks can acquire several replacements on the waiver wire once again, understand that the acquisition of Lin and Novak that way were highly unusual events, made even more unusual by the fact that they happened in tandem. Probably the best parallel in Knicks history is when within the space of the year, the Knicks signed both John Starks and Anthony Mason, a pair of players who had bounced between ten-day contracts in the N.B.A. and extended time in the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association. Both became key contributors to Knicks playoff teams. And nothing has happened like that for the Knicks in the intervening 20 years, until Lin and Novak. So it isn't a pipeline the Knicks can count on.

Ahead of the hearing, N.B.A. commissioner David Stern expressed confidence that his side would prevail, and the conventional wisdom supports Stern. A decision should come fairly quickly, allowing teams to set their plans ahead of the beginning of free agency on July 1.

Just how ambitious those plans are have everything to do with this hearing.

Elsewhere in New York sports:

METS

A team that had lost six of seven broke through in a big way Tuesday, turning a 2-1 deficit into an 11-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. As has been the case all year, Terry Collins made a choice unsupported by the numbers, choosing Jordany Valdespin and his .570 OPS to play designated hitter and hit second, and Valdespin came through for Collins, with the go-ahead double and four RBI. A truly elite pitching matchup awaits fans Wednesday night: Tampa Bay's David Price against New York's R.A. Dickey.

YANKEES

After seven fruitless innings, the Yankees rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-4. Alex Rodriguez hit a grand slam to tie it, and Nick Swisher had the go-ahead two-run homer. With the win, the Yankees took sole possession of first place in the American League East.

FOOTBALL

David Diehl made a public apology for his DWI arrest.