Lin's agent: Don't assume he'll return

Updated: May 22, 2012, 12:13 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

Jeremy Lin will be a restricted free agent this summer, and many see it as a foregone conclusion that the point guard will return to the New York Knicks, but not everyone feels so strongly.

"I don't expect that. We're not anticipating that's going to happen. We don't have assurances of anything," Lin's agent, Roger Montgomery, said in an interview with the New York Post. "I know history shows most restricted free agents go back to their team, but I'm not going to assume anything. We're waiting to see what happens."

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said earlier this month that Lin will "absolutely" be back with the Knicks next season. But Lin, speaking the day after the Knicks' season-ending loss to Miami in the playoffs, said "nothing is set in stone" regarding his free agency.

"There's always going to be uncertainty until the final contract is signed, so definitely nothing is set in stone," Lin said. "Nothing's set in stone until it's really written."

Thanks to a clause in the CBA -- named after Gilbert Arenas -- the Knicks can match any offer made to Lin this summer.

Another factor in Lin's free agency is the expected arbitration hearing over the Bird and Early Bird exceptions to the salary cap for waived players.

The union and league are at odds over whether the Bird rights for waived players should be transferred to their new teams. The union says the rights, which allow teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign players, should transfer for players who are waived. The league argues that the Bird rights should not transfer.

This is significant for Lin because he was picked up off of waivers by the Knicks. If the arbitrator rules in favor of the union, then the Knicks would be allowed to exceed the cap to sign both Lin and forward Steve Novak, who also was acquired off of waivers.

This would also allow the Knicks to use their $5 million mid-level exception on another player. If the arbitrator rules in favor of the league, the Knicks will likely have to use their mid-level exception to re-sign Lin and would be limited in their pursuit of other free agents.

Lin emerged from the end of the Knicks' bench in early February to lead the team to seven straight wins, essentially saving New York's season. In addition, he provided a significant financial boon for the Knicks in merchandising sales and marketing opportunities. These intangibles are why many believe Lin is a lock to re-sign.

But there is yet another wrinkle to consider: Teams under the salary cap can offer Lin more than $5 million per season in the third and fourth years of a contract offer, as long as the average annual value of the deal does not exceed the salary cap.

If the Knicks were to match such a back-loaded offer, it may put them above the luxury tax in the third and fourth years of Lin's contract and prohibit them from using their mid-level exception.

Lin underwent surgery April 2 to repair a small tear in the meniscus of his left knee. He tried to return during the first round of the Knicks' playoff series against the Heat but was unable to do so.

Montgomery told the New York Post that Lin is "doing well" but is not 100 percent healthy.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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