1:47 pm Jun. 25, 2012
A surprising ruling by an arbitrator on Friday night on the status of Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak will allow the Knicks to keep both players, and make other potentially meaningful upgrades to the roster.
The ruling affirmed that players claimed off waivers retain their Bird rights, which entitles their team to go above the salary cap (up to 175 percent of their 2011-12 salaries, or up to league average salary) to retain them. The N.B.A. is expected to appeal.
If the ruling stands, though, it is unvarnished good news for the Knicks, who were in the unusual situation of having picked up two players in one season that no other team wanted, only for both to become vital contributors in the course of that very same season.
Because the Knicks are bumping up against the salary cap already, thanks to the money owed to Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, the move allows them to both re-sign Lin and Novak, while using the midlevel salary exception to add another player or players.
The math is complicated, but essentially, that exception can either be up to $3 million if the Knicks want the flexibility to add players at all during the 2012-13 season, or $5 million if they want to take a chance on not adding to their roster at all in 2012-13.
Exactly how similar the roster will be to last season's group will be determined in part by whether J.R. Smith opts out of his contract, which he has until Tuesday to do.
Any appeal likely is to be resolved by the league within days, not weeks, since any delay into the free agency period beginning July 1 would interfere with the Knicks' ability to conduct business, and open the league up to further legal wrangling.
Which means the Knicks players should have a chance to spend a full offseason and training camp learning to play together, after spending all of the last, abbreviated season in an almost comical state of chaos.
This was a big one.