Apparently, it is too soon to tell for sure what the deal is with Jeremy Lin’s “Early Bird rights,” as there is essentially no accepted answer as of yet as to whether Lin being waived by the Golden State Warriors re-set his Bird Rights or whether they transferred to the Knicks when Lin was claimed on waivers by the Knicks (after first being claimed on waivers by the Houston Rockets and subsequently waived).
Noted NBA Salary Cap expert Larry Coon has this to say in his Salary Cap FAQ:
If a player is waived and is claimed by another team before he clears waivers, then his Bird clock resets.
I wrote this piece based on that position.
Coon then refuted that position, so I changed the piece because I trusted Coon.
A waiver claim is changing team by assignment, so he should be Early Bird, and the people I’ve talked to agree. But I haven’t heard an official ruling from the league on this, so I’m not 100% yet. It’s possible this hasn’t come up yet, and they have yet to make an official determination. I hope to find out for sure soon. EDITED TO ADD: And now we know! Click here to see what Lin’s contract status is.
In other words, we don’t know the answer yet. Don’t let anyone fool you who is giving you a definitive answer right now. No one knows for sure at the moment. So rather than me just edit and re-edit the piece until we know the real answer, let’s just hold off on the Lin discussion for the moment.
Meanwhile, what we do know is Landry Fields’ situation. So let’s talk about that for now. Landy Fields is on the second year of a two-year contract paying him roughly $800,000 a year. Fields will be a free agents at the end of this season.
Before I discuss anything, note that the Knicks are over the salary cap for next season but will not be at the luxury tax level. Therefore, they will have both the Bi-Annual Exception (roughly $2 million) and the full mid-level (roughly $5 million) as exceptions (on top of the ability to pay any free agent the minimum salary for that player, which is how they signed Baron Davis and Mike Bibby).
Fields is eligible for the so-called “Early Bird Exception.”
As an Early Bird player, Fields can be offered a contract that starts at 175% of his current salary or anything up to the average NBA salary (which is roughly $5 million). They can pay Fields this money without affecting their mid-level exception. However, if Fields just signs a one year deal for anything up to the average salary, then the following season the Knicks will have his full Bird Rights and then can re-sign him to a salary larger than the average salary. It really depends on how well Fields plays the rest of the year to determine what kind of deal he signs.
Other teams can still try to snatch Fields and Lin away from the Knicks, though. Both Fields and Lin are technically restricted free agents. However, due to the so-called “Gilbert Arenas provision,” other teams are limited in what they can offer Fields and Lin. They can only offer them up to the full mid-level. So the Knicks would be able to match any offers for Fields without touching their precious mid-level exception, which they hope to use to attract a notable free agent to come play for the team next year (the Knicks would also keep their Bi-Annual Exception available for a possible other free agent). Whether they can do the same for Lin depends on the decision regarding his Early Bird status. Something we don’t know at this point in time.
So, as things stand, Fields ia pretty much guaranteed to be Knicks next season if the Knicks want him(which they certainly seem to). Lin they likely could keep, as well, but it might take their full mid-level to do so. We shall see what happens with his Early Bird status. I will put up a new post when Coon gets a definitive answer on the topic.
Thanks to the man, the myth, the legend Larry Coon and his Salary Cap FAQ for the ground rules of this discussion. Read them for some other tricky stuff about the Gilbert Arenas provision that have not, to my knowledge, ever come up before so I didn’t address them but I guess they could (like how a team can backload a contract for a player like Fields so that the overall deal could be 4 years/$40 million).