Jeremy Lin, the Asian-American standout who came off the bench to revive the New York Knicks last season, is likely to rejoin the team after an arbitrator's ruling Friday.
The NBA players union sought "Larry Bird rule" free agency protection for Lin, Steve Novak, Chauncey Billups and J.J. Hickson and future players claimed off waivers just as if they had been traded under NBA salary cap rules.
The NBA said it will appeal the ruling by arbitrator Kenneth Dam.
All four players were waived this season and claimed by other teams, with Lin the most notable, having been dropped by two clubs before being given a chance by the Knicks. All four will become free agents on July 1.
Lin, the first US player of Taiwan or Chinese heritage in the NBA, was given a chance to come off the bench after injuries to two New York starters and made an electrifying impact, sparking a seven-game win streak with last-second shots and spectacular passes and sending Knicks fans into "Lin-sanity".
The ruling will allow the Knicks to re-sign Lin and Novak for $5 million each and add another player for $3 million or less under NBA salary cap rules, giving them a chance at such veterans as Steve Nash or Jason Kidd.
Portland could retain Hickson and Billups could rejoin the Los Angeles Clippers with similar benefits to keeping down their team's salary cap totals.