It was earlier this month when famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted the arrival of an early spring. Now the first sign of an NBA thaw might be showing in Joe Johnson’s resolve to remain with the Nets.
The 34-year-old swingman has begun talks with new Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks about buying out the rest of his $24.9 million contract this season, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
As long as Johnson is released by new Nets general manager Sean Marks by Tuesday, he’ll be playoff eligible for his next team.
“I think he’s deserved the right to (play on a playoff team if that’s what he wants),” Marks said of Johnson during an appearance on WFAN on Thursday.
Johnson, 34, is earning $24.9 million this season in the final year of a mammoth six-year, $124 million deal that was the league’s largest at the time when he signed it with the Hawks in 2010. Brooklyn absorbed the remaining four years and $89.3 million left on Johnson’s deal — soon followed by the acquisitions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — in a bid to first convince then-franchise point guard Deron Williams to stay with the Nets and then to make a run at the NBA championship that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov vowed to win within the space of five years.
But the Nets have only won one playoff series after acquiring Johnson and don’t have control of their own first-round pick until June 2019.
For the new GM Marks, moving on from Johnson would be the second step in what promises to be a tremendous undertaking to turn the Nets around. He had released forward Andrea Bargnani.
Despite averaging just 11.8 points per game on 40.6 percent shooting this season — his lowest numbers in more than a dozen years — Johnson will have no shortage of would-be contending teams lining up to add him to their playoff rosters. Stein reports Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and Toronto have already made contact.