NBA, union settle 'Bird' rights dispute

NEW YORK -- The NBA and the players' association have reached a settlement that clarifies some rights that Jeremy Lin and three other players have entering free agency.

The rule will now be that players who are claimed from waivers 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.

That helps the New York Knicks' chances of keeping Lin, their breakout point guard, and Steve Novak, who led the league in 3-point shooting percentage last season. The Knicks will be able to sign both without being restricted by the salary cap.

Chauncey Billups and J.J. Hickson are the other players who could benefit when free agency opens Sunday. All four had been waived this season and claimed by other teams.

The Larry Bird exception allows an NBA team to spend above its cap number in order to re-sign players that have performed in three seasons with that team and without going to a new team as a free agent. If a player is traded, it does not count against his number of years for this exception.

The "Early Bird" exception applies to those who played for a team for each of the previous two seasons, and if he changed teams, did so by trade.

However, the union argued the rights should also apply to players claimed off waivers, and an arbitrator agreed last week. The NBA appealed, and agreed to drop its appeal with Friday's agreement.

Billups and Hickson will have full "Bird" rights. Billups was waived through amnesty by the Knicks, wiping his salary away for cap and tax purposes, and eventually Lin inherited the point guard spot. Billups ended up claimed by the Clippers.

Lin and Novak will have "Early Bird" rights. The Knicks repeatedly have said they planned to re-sign Lin, no matter what.