Then, they did.
There are some folks around the league who wonder if the Nets would consent to buying out Johnson after the Feb. 18 trade deadline if they can’t move him.
The Nets are having a miserable season, Johnson especially. His points per game (11.3) is his lowest in 13 years, and his field-goal percentage (36.4%) and 3-point percentage (28.4%) are career lows. At age 34, he might just be over the hill.
I can’t imagine there will be much of a trade market for him.
His $24,894,863 salary complicates matters. Even if teams are interested in dealing for him, it’ll be difficult to send out enough salary to make a trade legal under the NBA’s matching rules.
If Johnson remains in Brooklyn past the trade deadline, the Nets would have little use for him. They’re 7-16 and have practically no chance of getting into the playoff race.
But they also owe the Celtics an unprotected first-round pick. So, there’s no value in playing worse late in the season. Brooklyn might as well try to win as many games as possible.
So, it’ll come back to Johnson. How much salary is he willing to sacrifice to become a free agent? The answer to that question might depend on what options he’d have elsewhere. Johnson has struggled so far, but maybe a winner sees his talent and believes the veteran could contribute in a limited role.
I suppose it’s possible the Nets – already under the luxury-tax line and in no danger of losing draft position – are completely against a buyout. They might rather pay Johnson’s full salary rather than getting a discount in exchange for letting him leave. He’s still a big name.
But I suspect Johnson would give up some money to leave and Brooklyn would let him leave if he gives up enough money. It’s just a matter of whether those ranges overlap.