Joe Johnson makes it official — he is an overpaid Hawk

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Thumbnail image for jjohnson_locker.jpgWe all knew the moment was coming when we heard that the Atlanta Hawks had made a max offer to Joe Johnson: six years at $119 million.

He has accepted the offer and will stay in Atlanta, with the USA Today being the first to break the news. Johnson will sign the deal July 8, which is the first day any contract could be signed.

He had wanted to stay in Atlanta, and they wanted to keep him, but the size and length of the deal is a surprise. The ownership and fan base there love him, and the owners made an emotional decision to keep him.

Emotions and business rarely mix well.

Don’t get me wrong, Johnson is a very good player, and if Rudy Gay is getting a max deal then Johnson certainly deserves one. Then again, on that sliding scale Dwyane Wade and LeBron James deserve some sort of “super-max” deal that doesn’t exist. Johnson is an All-Star, putting in 21 points a game at a solid shooting percentage (45.8 percent traditional, 53.8 true shooting percentage, both above average considering how much of the offense he has to carry). He was the guy with the ball in his hands in Mike Woodson’s old isolation-heavy offense at the end of games.

But he really needs to be paired with another powerhouse to get his full potential. He can shoot, but he needs someone else to distract the defenses.

The real question mark is the years – Johnson just turned 29. Perimeter players usually start to see declines in their games in their early 30s, and Johnson will be getting $23 million at age 34. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN and Hoopdata.com ran players with comparable career arcs to Johnson, and said basically at 34 he will be Michael Finley. At $23 million.

It is possible the current Hawks ownership will have sold the team by then and this deal will not be their problem. But come them it will be hamstringing any rebuilding of the franchise. So Hawks fans, really enjoy the next few years of peak Joe Johnson.

Reports: Cleveland, Boston in “serious” trade talks for Kyrie Irving

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Among the list of teams that have the pieces to offer Cleveland everything they are asking for in a Kyrie Irving trade, the Boston Celtics might be at the top of the list. They can send back a quality point guard in Isaiah Thomas, they have a number of rotation players who can help now, they have the Brooklyn pick next year or the Lakers’ pick (protected), and they have young stars such as Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum who could be thrown in a deal.

The question is, would the two top teams in the East want to do business with each other, potentially helping the other out? Can you see Dan Gilbert helping the Celtics? Danny Ainge helping the Cavaliers?

The two sides are at least talking seriously, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

I get why Boston would want Irving over Thomas — he’s younger, taller, and has a couple of years left on his current contract. Plus, if Boston is going all in for a ring Irving is a fit. I get why Cleveland would want Thomas back in an Irving trade, it puts a scoring point guard next to LeBron James and keeps them as the team to beat in the East next season.

The unprotected first-round Brooklyn pick would have to be part of the deal as well for the Cavs, although maybe the Lakers’ pick works, depending on who else is involved.

It’s the rest of the deal that becomes harder to puzzle out. The Cavaliers are going to ask for Jayson Tatum and Jae Crowder, and Boston is going to laugh. Mostly, Boston can’t give up Crowder, they need his wing defense against Cleveland and, theoretically, Golden State. Boston would prefer to send Thomas, Jaylen Brown, whichever pick, and some players such as maybe Marcus Morris. That may not be enough for Cleveland. Danny Ainge has a long history of getting serious in talks, asking for a lot, then deciding it wasn’t enough and pulling back.

That said, the pieces can be made to work. But do these teams want to deal with one another? Maybe so.

Mike D’Antoni thinks “synergy” between James Harden, Chris Paul will be beautiful thing

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It’s been one of the most interesting questions of the offseason — how will Chris Paul and James Harden share the ball and control of the Rockets?

In particular, how will they do it in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system that made Harden an MVP candidate and is not the calculated, surgical style that CP3 uses to carve defenses up?

Mike D’Antoni isn’t too worried about it. In an interview with our old friend Matt Moore of CBS Sports, the 2017 NBA Coach of the Year said the greats figure out how to work things out.

Team USA is an interesting example. Mike Krzyzewski wants to play fast (the USA is far more athletic than any team they face, they should take advantage of that) but he gives his players freedom within that outline to do what works. D’Antoni sounds like he wants to give Paul and Harden some space to figure out how to play together, what works for them. (The advantage is Team USA plays inferior opponents, often vastly inferior, and that will not be the same case for the Rockets in the NBA.)

Do the same rules apply if/when Carmelo Anthony gets traded to Houston? Probably.

D’Antoni is rightfully high on the Rockets’ offensive potential.

The real question is on the other end of the court. The Rockets were a middle of the pack defensive team last season (18th in points allowed per possession), but they have added quality defenders in Paul, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Can the Rockets become a top-10 defensive team, one with players who can match up with Golden State? Because we know the Warriors are going to finish the season top three on both ends of the court.

It’s going to be a fascinating season in Houston.

Morris twins have day in court next week on 2015 assault charge

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Back in 2015, brothers Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — both then playing for the Suns — were investigated and eventually charged with felony aggravated assault joining three other men to allegedly beat up Erik Hood at a recreational basketball tournament in the Phoenix area (hood ended up in the hospital with a broken nose and other injuries). The motivation allegedly had been Hood sending “inappropriate” text messages to the Morris brothers’ mother. From the start, both brothers have denied any involvement.

Next week, the brothers will get their day in court. The Boston Globe has the details (Marcus now plays for the Celtics, Markieff for the Wizards).

Celtics forward Marcus Morris and his brother Markieff, each facing aggravated assault charges stemming from an incident in 2015, will get their day in court on Aug. 28 in Arizona.

Often cases like this are pled down to a lesser charge that the defendant accepts, and that usually happens close to trial. However, it is unclear if the Morris twins would be willing to do that — any admission of guilt would likely come with some level of suspension from the NBA in addition to whatever punishment is ordered by the court. If convicted of a felony, each Morris brother would face a minimum 10-game suspension from the NBA.

If the Morris twins were not involved, they are right to fight this. Either way, it will head to court next week.

Watch Lonzo Ball dodge relentless stream of LeBron James questions (video)

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Shortly before the draft, Lonzo Ball was asked in a televised interview to pitch LeBron James on joining the Lakers – and did.

A couple months and a tampering investigation into the Lakers later, Ball learned his lesson.

Sports Illustrated:

Rohan Nadkarni’s questions were all in good fun, and he couldn’t trick Ball into tampering, anyway. The NBA has essentially decided it won’t punish players for tampering with each other.

Ask Ball an honest LeBron question, and he’ll give an honest answer.