Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, and other waived players retain Bird Rights.

As a Knicks fan, the best news I heard on around draft time had nothing Image to do with the Knicks drafting Kostas Papanikolau, since he will remain overseas (hopefully he won’t turn out like 1999’s biggest bust, Frederic Weiss, drafted one pick before Metta WorldPeace).  It was that the NBA (mainly David Stern) will not be appealing the arbitrator’s decision in favor of the NBA Player’s Union, to retain bird rights after being waved.  The players had to give up a lot due to the new collective bargaining agreement, and this win in their favor signifies them getting a little something back.

Yes, Chauncey Billups, and J.J. Hickson also retain their bird rights. Good for them, even though Portland will not extend an offer to Hickson.  But the infinitely more important question is what does this mean for the New York Knicks.  For one, it means they will be able to sign these two guys back, who were key to their regular season success.  They burst on to the scene, lighting up the Garden when star players were letting fans down.  Without the explosion of Linsanity and Novakaine, it would be tough to say the Knicks would have even made the playoffs.

There is a potential downside.  Before you call me a “Negative Nelly,” hear me out at least.  Say that Lin is a fluke, and the Knicks do extend him a long term offer.  This eliminates the Knicks chance to sign a legitimate, proven starting point guard – not that there are going to be a plethora of choices, and not that they would have anything more than a mid-level exception anyway, BUT  If you look at this situation from a non-Knicks-loving perspective, the Knicks are banking on a 23 year old kid who couldn’t play more than 35 games without knee surgery and had a penchant for turnovers.

Now, go ahead, begin the name calling.

To defend myself, this kid brought excitement and a feeling to New York that the Knicks have never had.  He brought a level of passion to NBA fans all over the country that had never been seen before.  He made the Knicks relevant in a way that Amar’e Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony had failed to do.  He gave Mike D’antoni’s career in New York and second and third chance.  I will always love Jeremy Lin and the phenomenon of his career in New York, and whether I, you, or anyone likes it or not, he is and will be the future point guard of this team.  Woodson is going to have to make it work, for better or worse.

I believe whole-heartedly that Jeremy Lin will develop and continue to evolve as an athlete.  He may not be a top-tier talent, but if he sets out to prove people like me wrong, I couldn’t be any happier.  Jason Kidd has voiced his interest in mentoring the young star, and I think that would be amazing for him and the team.  Jason Kidd is a more durable, well rounded guard with championship experience and capabilities Baron Davis never developed.  Kidd can still contribute 20 minutes a game when called upon, brings another ring into the fold, and will give Lin a chance to watch and learn.

Landry Fields still shows promise, despite his slump last season, and J.R. Smith may return – although, no one knows what he is going to do at any given moment (it could be a mind boggling slam dunk, a twitpic of the biggest ass on the planet, or a 2 AM bike ride).  The Knicks would be crazy not to offer Steve Novak a contract, based on his ability to shoot a three at 50% alone.  He may not have been a huge factor in the post season, but he was, and will be a force in getting them there again. Jared Jeffries is always available, and showed a good ability to rise to the occasion.  The Knicks will still have room for a mid-level exception, a mini-exception, and will look to sign other available veterans as well (for the vet’s minimum).  I look forward to the potential in next season more than anyone, but I am wary that, in typical Knicks fashion, terrible, terrible contracts will be the demise of a promising, superstar laden roster.  That being said, Go NY, Go NY Go!!!!

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