Originally posted on Knicks Journal  |  Last updated 6/23/12


The arbitrator in the case regarding NBA players' "Bird Rights" surprisingly ruled in favor of the Players Union yesterday, allowing previously waived (and subsequently claimed) players to retain their "Bird Rights" heading into free agency.

The ruling marked a big victory for the Knicks, who will look to retain both Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak this summer. As a result of the ruling, the team will also be able to reserve its Midlevel Exception (worth an approximate $5 million) to lure in an outside talent as well.
However, because New York's payroll is steadily approaching the $74 million hard cap, as it stands they can only spend about $3 million from the MLE. That is, of course, unless Glen Grunwald finds a crafty way to dump certain players (and their salaries) elsewhere.
As Knicks Journal's pal Alan Hahn notes in his exclusive "Knicks Fix" at MSG.com, the Knicks turned heads when they were able to waive Chauncey Billups and trade Ronny Turiaf in order to subsequently bring in Tyson Chandler. 
Luckily for New York, the mountain to climb in order to clear salary this season is nowhere near as high as it was last offseason. As much as some Knicks fans may want to see Toney Douglas get a shot at redemption next season under coach Mike Woodson, he would seem to represent a perfect candidate to be shipped elsewhere to free up salary. Douglas stands to make $2 million next season. Trading him the way they traded Turiaf would potentially allow the Knicks to look into using the full MLE.
Should they look to keep its core intact and simply add on to what they already have, however, there are still quite a few veterans who would to listen to a New York offer of $3 million. While the Knicks and their fans may have to count Steve Nash and Ray Allen (who still qualify as skillful starters and stand to receive more lucrative offers) out, players like Jason Kidd, Lamar Odom, and Raymond Felton still could be intrigued.
It's my strong belief that both Kidd and Odom would have entertained a Knicks offer of the Bi-Annual Exception (worth $1.9 million), if the NBPA had lost the hearing anyway. Kidd understands he's no longer a starter in the league, and if interested in playing in New York next season, be it with the Nets or the Knicks. Odom is a Queens native who is hungry for an opportunity at redemption after struggling to make an impact in Dallas this past season. Both have signed more lucrative contracts over the course of their careers, and may value the right situation more than the money. 
Felton perhaps represents a more intriguing option. This is because while New York may actually have substantial enough money to throw his way, it's unknown what kind of role they could/would offer. In a perfect world, the team will re-sign Lin and then lure in a veteran point guard to spell him and act as sixth man. While the veteran Kidd may enjoy this, Felton may want to continue starting. 
Felton should by no means be prioritized by the Knicks over or instead of Lin. He'd be a great option off the bench, especially considering how much the team could have used more of an impact from Baron Davis this past season. 
It's possible Felton, who is open to returning to New York, could be sold on this scenario. Though he started at point guard all season long for the Blazers, he backed up Ty Lawson is Denver for 21 games after being traded in the Carmelo Anthony deal during the 2010-11 season. Felton played well off the pine, averaging 11.5 points. 6.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 31.8 minutes per game. Ironically enough, his numbers as a backup with Denver were basically identical to his numbers in Portland last season. The only difference--his shooting percentages were actually much higher in Denver.
If the Knicks can sell him on the role, asserting he'd receive enough minutes, Felton could end up making a huge impact while experiencing similar success to his first Big Apple stint. It was overly apparent how much Amar'e Stoudemire would have benefited from playing with someone like Felton again this season. Though he did start to heat up as chemistry developed with Lin, having both guards in his corner would really make things easier for STAT.
No matter which veteran(s) the Knicks end up targeting and potentially luring in, Hahn and I agree that following the Miami Heat's model for success and surrounding your stars with strong role players (who are open to signing discounted deals for a chance to win big) is the way to go. 
You can read more of my thoughts on the issue as I recognize Mike Miller's impact on the Heat during their championship run this postseason in my latest contribution for The New York Times' NBA blog, "Off the Dribble."
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