NBA union seeks arbitration over Bird rights issue
By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) The NBA players' association said Tuesday it is seeking an arbitrator's ruling in hopes that Jeremy Lin and three other players maintain valuable rights in free agency.
The union argues that Lin and Knicks teammate Steve Novak, the Clippers' Chauncey Billups and Portland's J.J. Hickson should be able to re-sign with their teams by using the "Bird" or "Early Bird" exceptions to the salary cap.
Those exceptions allow teams to exceed the cap to re-sign their own players.
Teams can sign a player using the Bird exception if the player was with them for some or all of each of the prior three consecutive seasons. The Early Bird rights apply to players who played for the team for some or all of each of the prior two consecutive seasons.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the player keeps his rights if he changed teams by trade. The NBPA argues that a player and his contract going from one team to another should also maintain his rights through a waiver claim.
All four players were waived this season and claimed by other teams. The union said the league has notified it that none will be able to sign utilizing Bird rights - named for Larry Bird.
"Bird and Early Bird rights are among the most valuable rights that players have under the Collective Bargaining Agreement," union executive director Billy Hunter said in a statement. "These rights simply cannot be extinguished in the absence of an affirmative decision by a player to select a team through free agency. We will ask the arbitrator to resolve this dispute on an expedited basis and prior to the commencement of free agency."
All four players will become free agents on July 1.
A ruling for the union would be a help to the Knicks' hopes of keeping both Lin, their starting point guard, and Novak, who led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage. They are expected to re-sign Lin no matter what, but would be limited in their other options beyond that if they can't use Bird rights.
Updated May 15, 2012