Report: Joe Johnson commits to Heat, who expect to sign him this weekend

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The Heat are trying to go from frontrunner for Joe Johnson to employer of Joe Johnson.

Quickly.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Johnson won’t clear waivers until tomorrow, so that eliminates today. But, given Miami’s luxury-tax concerns, signing him even this weekend would be surprisingly soon.

So, what gives?

There are several possibilities.

  • Johnson is signing a 10-day contract. The Heat can pay free agents a combined 38 duty days at a minimum salary and avoid the tax. There are 48 days remaining in the season. But Johnson doesn’t need to be signed for 38 consecutive days. He could sign a 10-day deal now, let that expire, wait a few days, ink another 10-day deal, wait another few days and then sign for the rest of the season. As long as he ends the season on Miami’s regular-season roster (and doesn’t sign with another team after March 1), he’ll be playoff eligible.
  • The Heat plan to buy out someone else and reduce their payroll accordingly. This seems unlikely, though perhaps Udonis Haslem takes (another) one for the team. It’s just hard to see any player on this team willingly forgo guaranteed salary to become a free agent.
  • Miami plans to waive another player knowing that player will be claimed by another team. That would eliminate the Heat’s financial obligation to that player and clear enough room below the tax line to pay Johnson for the rest of the season. This is a little more plausible, and Haslem is again the most logical candidate. He’d have no say in the matter. The 76ers could use him to reach the salary floor and save money.
  • A Miami player has incentives in his contract that currently counts against the payroll but appears unlikely to be met. That could mean more wiggle room below the tax line that it appears.
  • The Heat will pay the luxury tax in order to get Johnson. That would be shocking after all the maneuvering they did to avoid it.
  • Miami will review the books and re-think its plan to sign Johnson so quickly. If this is the case, that could re-open Johnson’s free agency (which has technically yet to begin).
  • Lowe’s source or sources are mistaken. I trust Lowe, though we obviously don’t know where he got this information.