In general, a player retains his Bird rights in a trade, because his contract transfers with him. The union contends that the same principle should apply when a player is claimed off waivers, because the contract is still in effect and — similar to a trade — the player did not choose his new team.
In the union’s view, Bird rights should expire only when a player clears waivers, because he is a free agent at that point who can choose a new team and sign a new contract.
The union contends that the entire rationale for allowing Bird rights to transfer was to protect players who changed teams against their will, a principle that could apply to both trades and waiver claims. (The section of the uniform player contract that deals with waiver claims, in fact, cross references the rules governing trades.)
So union officials believe the spirit of the rule favors them. But if the arbitrator goes by the letter of the law, the union will probably lose the case and the Knicks will probably lose some key players.
Have Novak and Lin earned Bird Right’s is the issue. Since the season technically started in December, when the players were waved, did they earn them? According to the letter of the law it would seem no.
The Knicks are going to need some magic… Paging Judge Harry Stone.