Oh, this is so very helpful. Knowing that we'd all get to asking, Brian Cronin of Knickerblogger took the time to explain the forthcoming contract options for Landry Fields and Jeremy Lin (the latter of whom will have his deal guaranteed for the rest of the season on Friday). Both Lin and Fields will be free agents this summer, but there are rules and exceptions in place that could help the Knicks reel either or both of them back to New York (whether and how badly they'll want to do that remains to be seen).
See, because Fields will have played two years with the Knicks, he'll be eligible for the "Early Bird Exception", which means the Knicks can offer him one ratite of his choosing (sources say Fields would favor a rhea). If Fields signs a one year deal, the Knicks will have full bird rights next season and be eligible to offer Landry any feathered creature he desires. Lin has no bird rights and is only entitled to things like the non-bird exception, wherein he could be offered either a badger, an eggplant, or a clock radio. I think I've got that right, but here's Brian:
As an Early Bird player, Fields can be offered a contract that starts at 175% of his current salary or anything up to the average NBA salary (which is roughly $5 million). They can pay Fields this money without affecting their mid-level exception. However, if Fields just signs a one year deal for anything up to the average salary, then the following season the Knicks will have his full Bird Rights and then can re-sign him to a salary larger than the average salary. It really depends on how well Fields plays the rest of the year to determine what kind of deal he signs.
Lin, however, is not an Early Bird player since he has only played one year for the Knicks. Therefore, if they want to re-sign him, they would have to use one of the following:
1. The Non-Bird Exception, where they could pay him up to 120% of his current salary (or roughly $1 million)
2. The Bi-Annual exception (which is something like $2 million) or
3. However much of the mid-level (which is roughly $5 million) they would need to re-sign him.
Essentially, that makes Fields pretty easy to re-sign and Lin somewhat trickier (though doable) should his fine play continue. Of course, if the Knicks find themselves even considering a dip into the mid-level to pay Lin, that'll mean things went pretty well. That's one of them good problems.
I highly recommend you read Cronin's full piece, where he fleshes out and explains each of the alternatives. This stuff isn't particularly relevant right now, but it's good to know, and we'll be happy we learned about it come summertime.
Everybody say thank you to Brian. Come on! Thaaaaaank you Briaaaaaaaaan. Good job.