Thanks to their ill-fated playoff run, the Knicks will play no part in tonight's NBA draft lottery. Thanks to their dalliance with Tracy McGrady back in 2010, they'll hardly make a peep in the draft itself on June 28. Between now and the beginning of free agency on July 1, the day to look forward to is June 13. Why June 13? Because, as was reported late last night, that is the recently released date of the arbitration hearing for the Bird rights of waived players. The Players Association feels that guys waived by one team, then picked up in season by another (on the same contract), should be afforded the same salary-cap-bending incentive to stay with their current team that a traded player would. Without having seen the new collective-bargaining agreement, it sounds like it's a classic "letter of the law" versus "spirit of the law" thing. Getting waived and latching on elsewhere is not technically a trade, but in terms of the player's contract status with his new team, it might as well be. The union will try to establish some vagueness in the rule, thus granting Bird rights to a handful of free agents who were waiver acquisitions by their incumbent teams. The league will try to uphold the rules in their most literal form and, from the sound of things, will probably win.
That decision will more or less dictate New York's entire summer. Two of the four players set to have their free-agent rights affected by the ruling are Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, a couple of guys the Knicks would really, really like to keep around. If the NBPA wins the case and Lin and Novak are granted Bird rights, it would allow the Knicks to re-sign those two without dipping into their cap exceptions (also known as the only real money the Knicks have to spend this summer). They could hold on to one or both of those guys quite easily, then set their sights outward and reel in a couple useful bench players.
If the appeal falls short, everything becomes much tougher. Assuming New York wants Lin back, they'd likely be pushed to spend all their exception money on retaining him. After that, they'd have to populate about half the roster with players willing to sign minimum contracts. Barring some really clever signings or some more waiver magic from Glen Grunwald, New York would end up with an even top-heavier roster than the one they had this past season.
So, yeah, if you're a Knicks fan, the lottery tonight and draft in late June are of relatively little importance. The fate of the 2012-2013 Knicks will be decided in a boardroom or courtroom of some sort on June 13. Go get 'em, NBPA!