Blog Entry

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Posted on: June 30, 2010 7:29 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2010 2:51 am

The Atlanta Hawks officially extended a six-year, approximately $120 million offer to retain free agent Joe Johnson at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, the first salvo in the most anticipated free-agent negotiating period in NBA history, a person with knowledge of the offer told

The interest Johnson has generated, particularly from the Knicks, Bulls, Heat, Mavericks and Clippers, forced the Hawks' hand and resulted in the first of many surprises anticipated in the feeding frenzy over LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and other marquee players who hit the market a minute after the stroke of midnight.

Johnson agreed to meet with a contingent of Knicks officials led by his former coach in Phoenix, Mike D'Antoni, in Los Angeles shortly after official contact was permitted by league rules. The Knicks, who also planned to meet with free-agent shooting guard Mike Miller and at least speak by phone with D'Antoni's former power forward in Phoenix, Amar'e Stoudemire, are hoping to gage the desire of potential running mates before a Thursday meeting with James and his team of advisers, which is expected to take place near James' home in Akron, Ohio.

Johnson’s intentions have been difficult to read, with sources indicating that he’s been intent on hearing what other teams have to say before deciding whether to return to Atlanta. But the additional $25-plus million that Atlanta can offer him, with bigger raises and a sixth year, is expected to speak volumes in his decision. It would be a huge commitment on the Hawks’ part, one that would price Johnson’s many suitors out of the market.

It’s feasible that the max offer could simply be parlayed into a sign-and-trade arrangement, with Johnson going to the Knicks or Clippers, believed to be his two most likely destinations if he were to leave the Hawks. But if that’s the case, why would Atlanta show its cards this early? If they were preparing for Johnson to leave, they’d wait for him to bring offers to them and then react. Not the case here.

If Johnson stays, the options for teams in pursuit of LeBron are diminished exponentially. A wild card for the Knicks would be to sell LeBron on coming to New York and letting him recruit Johnson to join him. But short of landing LeBron, the Knicks’ chances of landing Johnson with a five-year deal – the most they could offer – would be close to zero. Not only would Johnson be insane to leave that much money on the table at this stage of his career – he’d be 34 in the sixth year of the Hawks’ deal – but his personality is such that he wouldn’t want to be the consolation prize for LeBron in New York. Being a franchise player has never been Johnson’s desire or strong suit, much less in the glare of New York.

With the free-agency free-for-all now upon us, here’s the rest of the buzz culled from team executives and agents throughout the day and night:

UPDATED 2:51 a.m.

The main event, of course, begins Thursday, when James is expected to host the Nets and Knicks at a location near his Akron home, with the Bulls, Heat, Clippers and, of course, Cavs also on the guest list through Friday. People with knowledge of James' strategy believe he will take the presentations very seriously and will wait until he has heard from all parties before formulating his game plan. Wade and Bosh, whose shared agent, Henry Thomas, is based in Chicago, have chosen to meet with teams Friday in the Windy City as opposed to traveling to New York. Knicks officials are trying to persuade Stoudemire to visit New York over the weekend, but a person with knowledge of Stoudemire's strategy indicated that he's lukewarm on the Knicks unless they add a major piece besides him.

* Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who recently had surgery to remove bone Spurs from his neck, did not travel with the team's contingent to Los Angeles for the meetings with Johnson and Miller, but will be in Ohio for the all-important pitch to James.

* Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted early Thursday upon the completion of a free-agent visit with Texas native Chris Bosh. "He's about winning so I focused on how w/Houston he can win a championship," Morey wrote. With Yao Ming opting into his $17.6 million contract for next season, with a backcourt of Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin, with defensive gurus Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza, and with respected coach Rick Adelman, Houston has a lot to offer Bosh. But Morey is smart enough to realize that he also has assets that would be attractive to Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo in a sign-and-trade -- which could be even more important. Colangelo has all but accepted the fact that Bosh is leaving, so he will push hard to get assets back. The Rockets also have extra draft picks acquired from the Knicks in the Tracy McGrady trade, which put the Knicks on track to clear cap space for two max free agents. The key piece is the Knicks' 2012 first-round pick, which is only top-five protected.

* Sources say David Lee and restricted free agent Rudy Gay are scheduled to visit the Timberwolves, who have a shade under $13 million in cap space. Lee, whose rights would have to be renounced by the Knicks to clear space for two max free agents, also has meetings through the weekend set up with the Bulls, Heat and Nets. Lee, a gifted rebounder whose offensive game has flourished under D'Antoni, could benefit from a willingness to sign for less than the max while the Knicks are in a holding pattern as they court LeBron and other higher-profile free agents. The Knicks reached out to Lee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, shortly after midnight to express their desire in keeping him. But the Knicks are hoping Lee will wait to make a decision until they know if they'll have cap space left.

* Thunder GM Sam Presti wasn't chasing any free agents early Thursday, but he was laying the groundwork for the all-important extension talks with his own superstar, Kevin Durant. Using the payroll flexibility he has created, Presti's No. 1 priority for the offseason is retaining Durant, who became eligible for an extension at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

* Bulls free-agent center Brad Miller heard from Cleveland, Houston, Chicago and Boston and expects to meet with those teams over the next few days, a person with knowledge of the conversations said.

* The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor reached out to Carlos Boozer early Thursday and is intent on continuing the dialogue. Boozer is expected to attract serious interest from the Heat, Bulls, Knicks and Nets. Miami president Pat Riley also is said to be focused on Johnson and Stoudemire.

UPDATED 12:54 a.m.

The Heat and Cavs expressed immediate interest in center Brendan Haywood, with the interest level from the Cavs described as "very high." Cleveland will need a center to replace free agent Shaquille O'Neal, and a person with knowledge of the negotiations said a double sign-and-trade scenario was brewing that would result in the Cavs and Mavs exchanging Haywood for O'Neal. "That's got legs," the person said. Miami, in hot pursuit of one of the elite free-agent power forwards, also is after Haywood as a center to play alongside one of the free-agent power forwards it's chasing.

UPDATED 10:58 p.m. ET

Atlanta's decision to max out Johnson means restricted free agent Josh Childress, who had been playing in Greece, stands to score big in free agency because there's no chance the Hawks will match given their expected commitment to Johnson, sources say. Though Childress left the Hawks for Greece two summers ago, his restricted free-agent status remains frozen on the NBA clock and the Hawks still have the right to match any offer sheet.

* In addition to Miller, point guard Raymond Felton is expected to be an early mid-level target of the Knicks, who will pursue him while courting LeBron, Johnson and other more decorated stars. Short of dumping Eddy Curry's $11.3 million salary, that's a sign of a possible backup strategy if the Knicks lose out on LeBron: get a commitment from a point guard or a shooter, use that acquisition to entice one of the top free agents, and keep Lee.

UPDATED 8:30 p.m. ET

In a surprising move, Spurs forward Richard Jefferson opted out of his contract, leaving $15 million on the table and a lot of people sitting around tables scratching their heads. Jefferson never fit as well as anticipated in San Antonio's system and culture, but his decision seems to be, believe it or not, financially motivated. It's a calculated gamble based on the expectation that the new CBA will dramatically reduce his earning potential on a new contract next summer. Although Jefferson will never make $15 million a year again, he obviously believes he'll do better in the long run by signing a multi-year deal this summer under the current rules as opposed to waiting for the uncertainty of next summer. Even with Jefferson's $15 million coming off the Spurs' books, they still don't have cap money to spend on free agents. But Jefferson's decision frees them from luxury-tax jeopardy for now.

• Stoudemire’s decision to invoke his early-termination option and become a free agent Wednesday was a foregone conclusion, but the line of communication between Suns owner Robert Sarver and Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, remains open. Sarver, Walters, coach Alvin Gentry and Stoudemire met Tuesday night in Los Angeles to continue negotiations on an extension. Sarver and Walters followed up on the phone Wednesday, but the Suns’ offer still hadn’t reached the max level. Stoudemire, meanwhile, has no free-agent visits scheduled as the teams with the most cap space are focusing on the big prizes first – LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Stoudemire and Boozer will come into play quickly once the options for the Big Three become apparent. Stoudemire, according to a source, is open to meeting with the Knicks out of respect for his former coach, D’Antoni. But the Knicks are completely focused on making their pitch to LeBron Thursday in Akron.

• In an online video discussing the arrival of July 1, Bosh said he’ll probably be in Dallas awaiting offers . Since Bosh recently cut his dreadlocks, it’s not clear how long ago the video was shot. 

• Another free agent not named James, Wade or Bosh is expected to attract significant interest: Steve Blake. Blake could be had for roughly half Felton's price. One of the first inquiries is expected to come from the Lakers, who view Blake as a reasonably priced upgrade over Jordan Farmar as a backup to Derek Fisher and eventual starter. Indiana is a potential destination for Farmar, sources say.

Chris Paul notwithstanding, the wild card in the point-guard market remains Tony Parker. Once source said the Spurs are “hellbent on moving him,” but that will take time to play out. The Knicks are the most likely destination for Parker, but they need to address their top priority – LeBron – before they go down that road.

• The Trail Blazers’ GM position remains Danny Ferry’s job to turn down, and that’s exactly what Ferry is expected to do, a high-level coaching source familiar with the situation said. The meddling ownership elements that resulted in the demise of Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn are still in place, and that’s a concern for Ferry, who may not be eager to step back into such a situation after an exhausting experience in Cleveland.

• Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey is the only candidate to have interviewed for the Suns’ opening, sources say. Phoenix is focused on re-signing Stoudemire before further addressing the job vacated by Steve Kerr.

Category: NBA
Tags: 2010 FA Buzz

Since: Jul 30, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2010 7:54 pm

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Thanks for talking about the Bucks!  Gooden gives the Bucks a great combo underneath. 

Since: May 26, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2010 3:03 pm

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Only a handful of you guys are getting the point; Atlanta might already have a sign and trade partner in place. Joe Johnson might not be in a Hawk uniform next year despite this offer. It might be the Dallas Mavericks, or Washington Wizards, or even the Bulls who have pieces which Atlanta would like to add in exchange for Johnson. The Atlanta front office is simply hedging against the prospect of Johnson walking away and leaving them empty handed. A sign-and-trade at least gives them something in return. The first step is to make the offer.

Since: Jul 23, 2007
Posted on: July 1, 2010 2:10 pm

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Just for the record, Johnson played 2 years at Arkansas. Also for the record I think all pro sports salaries are shameful and will cause the decline of the sports in time. This coming from a former sports addict.

Since: Jan 19, 2008
Posted on: July 1, 2010 1:34 pm

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

If I were the Nets or Knicks, id try to trade for Parker or Paul and then go after LBJ and Bosh. I think they are better true pgs than Rose. Guys like LBJ love true pgs.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:34 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Dumb Dumb dumb.  I realize he is the hawks 'best' player.  But really?  119 mil?  Thats grossly over-paying for this guy.  Don't do that to yourself especially if you think wages are going to go down.  That means the free agents in the future will be cheaper.  Its not like you are going to win the Finals with this team as it is now anyways, not with how they got dominated by a weaker (when compared to 2008-2009) Magic team.  You might as well ship him off, the East is weak anyways, you'll still make the playoffs.  Then you look on the FA try to bring in a guy or get a guy in the upcoming drafts.  There is no way you could trade JJ with that type of contract.  I bet you they are praying he says no.  this is a move so they can go to their fanbase and say we did all we can do, don't blame us.  But deep down inside they know that this isn't a good deal.  

Since: Feb 2, 2007
Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:29 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

The Hawks are doomed. Three years from now, Joe Johnson's game will start to diminish exponentially, if not sooner. The track record for players like him who play straight out of high school is not good.

Joe Johnson is not worth a max contract right now. Three years from now, he will be a hugely unmovable player that will strangle the team. The Hawks wont be in contention for at least another 10 years. Thats how bad this is. In the East you have whatever team Lebron Goes to, Orlando, and at least one of Miami/New York/Nets/Chicago will get much better too. That makes the Hawks 4th seed at best, and whos to say the Bucks cant be better then the Hawks?

This is awful.

Atlanta fans better be praying there is already a sign and trade in place (my guess would be to the Knicks for Danilo Gallinari, or Nets for Devin Harris)

Since: Jan 19, 2008
Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:27 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

I am mostly interested in if a super group is going to be formed. It would be interesting to see how a LBJ, Bosh and Rose would mesh together, all super groups dont always perform like the Celtics did.

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: July 1, 2010 11:10 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Seriously, what choice did the Hawks have? Find a way to resign Johnson or disappear into oblivion. They're putting up a fight because they had the third best record in the East and if something is working pretty well don't let it get away. This team has potential, and for the most part, they're all still pretty young.

Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: July 1, 2010 10:58 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

Have been a Hawks Fan through thick and thin. If the Hawks give Johnson 20 million a year, it would be laughable. So many free agents out there, and not talking to any? Pretty pathetic. Bosh, Horford, and Smith would be an very formidable front three, let Crawford start, and get a point guard that is affordable and they are instantly better. Johnson is not a leader, is not clutch, and would be better off as a complimentary player instead of the main keg. This just goes to show that owners like the Hawk's owner, should not own teams. Too many headaches. Yes, Johnson got the Hawks over the hump, but it is time to move on. He has done what he was acquired to do, make the Hawks a competitive team, but to win a championship requires a different hand. Hope this is a sign and trade if the Hawks do sign him for all that money. Hope.

Since: Dec 24, 2009
Posted on: July 1, 2010 10:51 am

Free-Agent Buzz (UPDATE)

When you are in an undesirable market you have to overpay to keep talent. Make no mistake Atlanta may be an otherwise great city, but the support isn't there on a consistent basis. The small markets and the cities that don't support their teams always have to take bigger risks or just be plain smarter with their dollars.

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