Though the title of this post sounds like some sort of nature debate involving birds and worms, that isn't the case. Instead it means on June 13 an arbitrator will sit down with the NBA and the NBA Players Association (NBPA) to decide whether Jeremy Lin, Steve Novak, Chauncey Billups, and J.J Hickson will receive their Bird Rights back.
For some reason (I don't quite understand the dispute), the NBPA believes that because Lin, Novak, Billups, and Hickson were all waived, and signed with their teams as free agents, that their teams (the Knicks, Clippers, and Blazers, respectively) should have the Bird Rights to these players. Bird Rights allow teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players.
For the Knicks, this decision will be huge.
Because the Knicks have so much money tied up to Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Tyson Chandler, they have almost no room to build a team around them. As it currently stands, the Knicks will have to try and split up their MLE to try and retain Lin and Novak. Landry Fields is a restricted free agent, so the Knicks can go over the limit to re-sign him and can match any offers he receives. J.R. Smith has a player option of $2.5 million, and it's likely that he'll opt out to test the free agency market.
With Lin, because of the Gilbert Arenas Provision, the Knicks can match any offer he receives, but they have to use their MLE to retain him, meaning they cannot go over the cap to re-sign him.
If the arbitrator rules in favor of the NBPA, the Knicks will receive the Bird Rights for Lin and Novak and thus be able to sign them regardless of their salary cap situation. This would obviously be huge for the Knicks.
If they receive Lin's and Novak's Bird Rights, they'll still have their $5 million MLE and $1.9 million biannual exception to spend on free agents. Backup point guards like Raymond Felton and Kirk Hinrich have been discussed, or the Knicks could look into using those exceptions to lock up J.R. Smith should he opt for free agency, and Jared Jeffries.
So, until June 13, we'll all anxiously twiddle our thumbs for the ruling. Go NBPA!