Joe Johnson said all along what he wanted was to be in Atlanta. Getting the Hawks front office and ownership all on one page for something is like herding cats, but Rick Sund did it — they got together and offered Johnson a max contract. Six years, $119 million. They did it because they are emotionally attached to Johnson as a player.
And now he’s making them wait.
Johnson had a second meeting with them and was expected to accept the Hawks offer — several sources even said he did — but never officially said yes.
The reason is he is “intrigued” by New York and Chicago, and he wants to see how those situations play out, according to Ken Berger at CBSSports.com. Basically, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are getting to have a lot of fun, and Johnson wants to have some fun, too.
If Amare Stoudemire does sign with New York, Johnson could be a good fit there (although they still need a point guard, maybe they try harder to trade for Tony Parker). If just one of the big three land in Chicago, Johnson might try to go there.
But to do either of those, he’d have to take a pay cut. First because the Hawks can offer a larger max deal than those teams (because they are trying to retain Johnson they can offer one more year and about $27 million more). Secondly, there is the good chance those other teams will not offer a max deal — there are a lot of executives around the league who don’t think Johnson is a max player. Many more are leery about extending him beyond three or four years.
In the end, it’s hard to see Johnson leaving $27 million on the table, to see him leaving a city he loves. But he may make the Hawks sweat it out for a while first.