Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 5/21/12
Free agency is five and a half weeks away, but Jeremy Lin's agent already is setting the groundwork for what could be a complicated negotiation. Roger Montgomery, in a rare interview, said nothing was assured regarding Lin's Knicks future, despite interim coach Mike Woodson's declaration that the global phenom, who becomes a restricted free agent July 1, would "absolutely" return. When asked if he expects the Knicks negotiation to be cut-and-dried, Montgomery forewarned, "I don't expect that. We're not anticipating that's going to happen. We don't have assurances of anything. I know history shows most restricted free agents go back to their team, but I'm not going to assume anything. We're waiting to see what happens." Montgomery's emphatic remarks -- coupled with Lin's "nothing's set in stone" comment -- seem to be strategic messaging. There is a possibility the Knicks will force the 24-year-old and his reps to find the point guard's market value by first signing an offer sheet from another team, which must project Lin's potential from a 26-game window when he played starter's minutes. Lin, who made $762,000 this season, also must find a club that feels the Knicks won't match the offer. The good news for Montgomery is that in the new collective bargaining agreement, teams have just three days to match an offer, less than the prior seven-day window that hamstrung teams. Montgomery must create the impression the Knicks are not locks to retain Lin to spur teams to present an offer sheet. A source confirmed Toronto, which has a large Chinese population, will be one suitor. The Knicks ultimately control Lin's destiny because they cannot be outbid. And if the Players Association wins its arbitration hearing and restores Lin's Early Bird rights, it is a virtual certainty the Knicks will match any offer because the Bird exception means teams can exceed the salary cap to re-sign players. That would allow the Knicks to keep their $5 million mid-level exception to sign a solid, veteran point guard from a list that starts with Steve Nash but also includes Jameer Nelson, Andre Miller, Ramon Sessions, Lou Williams and Raymond Felton. A source said the arbitration hearing date will be set this week. If the union loses and the Knicks need their $5 million mid-level exception to re-sign Lin, it could get trickier.
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