Last season, Papanikolaou played for Olympiacos. He helped the team beat C.S.K.A. Moscow, 62-61, in the Turkish Euroleague championship game.
Papanikolaou averaged 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. He is also a member of Greece’s Olympic national team.
“He plays hard and he’s highly skilled,” General Manager Glen Grunwald said. “He needs to improve his shooting, but we watched him improve over the course of this year.”
Papanikolaou will not join the team during its summer league games next month in Las Vegas because he still has one year left on his contract.
Grunwald said the earliest Papanikolaou could play for the Knicks is in the 2013-14 season.
Although the Knicks had 42 players work out for them leading up to the draft, Papanikolaou was not one of them.
The Knicks hope that if Papanikolaou will mature, with his potential and solid athleticism, he can become a player similar to Marc Gasol, Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, all who were taken at the 48th spot or higher.
“He’s an investment, and we think he’s going to get better,” Grunwald said. “We see him as a guy that’s going to work and have the toughness to be able to succeed in the ”
Earlier in the day, the N.B.A. and its players union moved toward a settlement in the so-called Bird rights case that has temporarily clouded the future of , according to two people briefed on the talks.
The most likely outcome is that Lin and three other N.B.A. players — including the Knicks’ Steve Novak — will retain some form of Bird rights, as affirmed last week by an arbitrator, according to one of the people briefed on the talks. But the talks were continuing Thursday, and the details of a settlement remained in flux.
Bird rights, established by the league’s Larry Bird exception before the 1983-84 season, allow teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their free agents. A player who has earned full Bird rights — by playing three straight seasons for the same team — can earn up to the maximum salary. A player with early Bird rights — two consecutive seasons with the same team — is eligible for a contract starting at the league average, about $5.3 million.
An announcement could be made as soon as Friday, but no later than Saturday night, so that the affected players and their teams would have clarity before the free-agent period opened, at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
The two people briefed on the talks asked for anonymity because negotiations were ongoing.
If Lin and Novak retain their early Bird rights, it will be a huge boost for the Knicks, giving them greater flexibility to re-sign both players and to add other free agents.
Grunwald hopes with the possible additional flexibility the team could find veteran players who will be willing to play for a midlevel exception contract.
“We are at the stage where we want to make improvements right away,” Grunwald said.
If Lin and Novak are denied their early Bird rights, the Knicks will need to use their midlevel exception to pay Lin and will almost certainly lose Novak, or any chance to add a significant free agent.
The settlement will also affect J. J. Hickson of the Portland Trail Blazers and Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers, but not in a meaningful way. The Blazers have enough cap room to re-sign Hickson without using Bird rights. Billups, who made more than $14 million last season, is already eligible to make any amount up to that sum, and will probably take a major pay cut.
Lin and Novak were granted early Bird rights, and Billups and Hickson received full Bird rights, in the ruling issued by the arbitrator Kenneth Dam last Friday. The N.B.A. said it would appeal, but the league delayed filing in order to negotiate a settlement instead. An appeal would stay the ruling.
Both sides are motivated to resolve the matter before free agency opens because of the chaos that would surely ensue in the absence of an agreement. Without knowing what rights Lin and Novak had, the Knicks would be hamstrung, and unable to offer contracts without the fear of having them overturned later, if the N.B.A. won an eventual appeal. In the meantime, they could lose the chance to re-sign their own players, or to pursue other free agents.
“They’re not going into free agency with this out there,” said one person briefed on the talks.
At issue is whether players who are claimed on waivers — as Lin, Novak, Billups and Hickson were — should retain the same contractual rights as players who are traded, as defined by the collective bargaining agreement. The union contends they should, and filed for arbitration last month to challenge the N.B.A.’s interpretation, which held that waived players lose their Bird rights, even if they are claimed.
Lin and Novak were claimed off waivers by the Knicks in December. At the time, Lin was in the second year of a two-year deal, originally signed with the Golden State Warriors. Had he remained with the Warriors, or been traded during that contract, Lin would have had early Bird rights this summer.