NBPA Wants Arbitrator To Clarify Issue Regarding Free Agency, Bird Rights
The NBPA is "asking an arbitrator to clarify certain free-agent rights in a case that could immeasurably benefit the Knicks this summer," according to sources cited by Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The case concerns “Bird rights,” which allow a player to “re-sign with his team without regard to the salary cap." At issue is "whether a player retains his Bird rights when he changes teams through a waiver claim,” as was the case this season with Trail Blazers F J.J. Hickson, Clippers G Chauncey Billups, Knicks G Jeremy Lin and F Steve Novak. The league contends that those rights "are lost when a player changes teams through waivers." The union is "challenging that interpretation." If the NBPA prevails, the Knicks would be able to re-sign both Lin and Novak, “their top free agents, despite cap constraints." The union filed a letter yesterday seeking arbitration, and it "hopes to have the matter settled by the time free agency opens July 1." Both sides "must first select an arbitrator." The union contends that a player "claimed on waivers should retain all contractual benefits, as he does when he is traded." The league "disagrees, citing a specific clause in the labor agreement that indicates Bird rights are lost when a player is waived, even if another team claims him." Although the Bird rules "have been in place for years, this specific dispute had not arisen" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/15).