I caught up with Steve Novak on Saturday, the day after the NBA announced it had reached a settlement agreement with the players' association regarding the recent arbitration proceeding filed on behalf of Novak, Jeremy Lin, former Knick Chauncey Billups and J.J. Hickson.
Under the settlement, Lin and Novak will have the same early Bird rights as if they had been traded, but will not have full Bird rights unless they are claimed through the league's amnesty procedure.
Here's Novak's take:
Q: What does it mean for you now?
Novak: It was kind of a big relief. For me, getting Bird rights was the biggest thing, I think I understand about 90 percent of it. Myself and Jeremy Lin, we can re-sign [with the Knicks] without it going towards the cap, which is huge. I guess I don't know what exactly to expect; this is my first free agency. In the past, I've been one of the last signings, so I'm not really sure what to expect.
Q: What have you heard from teammates and friends in the league about the free agent process? Anything that you're expecting?
Novak: For one of my good friends, Shane Battier, last year it was really the first time in his career that he was true free agent. And I know he was saying that he was really looking forward to it and looking forward to going through the process, and experiencing just kind of how it works. And then by the time he had to make a decision, he was like, "Oh man, oh man, this is stressful and I'm not sure if I'm making the right decision." It's almost better if you just get that early extension and you don't have to do any thinking or anything.
Q: Is your priority the Knicks, though? And also for Jeremy? I'm sure you guys have been talking about it.
Novak: Yeah, yeah, we've definitely been talking. As I've said a million times, I would just love to be back. There's no question that coming back would be awesome.
Q: You were at the early Bird rights hearing. What was that experience like?
Novak: It was really, really very interesting. To be honest, I wasn't sure if it was going to be kind of like a oh-my-goodness-six-hour-day, where I'm just sitting there and I'm just listening and not understanding exactly. It was really the opposite of that. I was just very impressed I think with the lawyers, and how it was handled and the preparation. The whole process, to be honest, was just obviously very civil. You really just got a feel for how the collective bargaining last summer went on, but at a very, small level. That went on for six months. Every little thing has to just be black and white. That's what caused this; there was a gray area.
It was just crazy to see the intricacies of arguing over something like this. But to me, after really hearing both sides, I knew it just obviously affected me largely and positively. We had the favorable ruling, but to be honest, I really feel like it was the right thing, it was the fair thing, I think it was what the CBA intended to be, and I think that that's good. I think for future players that this affects, to me, that was the best part of winning it.
Q: Did they ask for your opinion? Were you able to express how you felt?
Novak: No, not at all. I really was there listening and, to be honest, the majority of the lawyers just spoke. It was really just being there and knowing it was a huge decision for me.
Q: So what's the essence of early Bird rights to you? Is it security for yourself, knowing that you have a better chance of landing with the Knicks, and higher financial longevity? Are those the two main things, or are there other factors that are important for you?
Novak: In my mind, getting Bird rights, to me, really just meant a much more open door to the Knicks. People were like, "I don't understand all this stuff. Just explain to me if you win what does it mean, and if you lose what does it mean?" My explanation was really like, "Look, if I win Bird rights, I think I have a much, much better chance of being back with the Knicks."
Stay tuned for more from Novak, as he reflects on the past year, and talks about his summer, training and preparing for next season.
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