When Joe Johnson agreed to a buyout with the Brooklyn Nets, the conventional wisdom is he was Cleveland bound. If you’re taking less money to go win, then Cleveland was the best choice available. And they wanted him — Tyronn Lue and LeBron James both reached out to Johnson.
He chose Miami.
Why? Style of play, Johnson told the media Friday. Here’s his quote, via the Palm Beach Post.
“It’s late in my career, man. I’ll be 35 this year. I was looking more for some security, not necessarily a verbal commitment or anything like that, but somewhere I could really play and come out and enjoy the game….
“Having (Dwyane) Wade here and talking to (Udonis Haslem) and Amar’e (Stoudemire), and their style of play. Style of play was probably the biggest difference. They told me they wanted to get up and down the floor and run, and that enticed me. I thought it was the best fit.”
Lue has wanted the Cavaliers to push the pace more, but since the All-Star break they are just 0.8 possessions faster per game than before the week off. Less than one possession a game, that can be random fluctuation.
Miami, without Chris Bosh, is playing nearly five possessions per game faster than they did before the All-Star break. And Miami is four possessions a game faster than Cleveland.
Johnson has started all 10 games he’s been in Miami and is averaging 15.5 points a game on 56.5 percent shooting.
Which gets at Johnson’s other, unstated, motivation: His next contract.
Johnson is a free agent this summer; he wanted to put himself in the best possible position to get a big deal this summer when the market is awash with cash (roughly 25 teams will have the cap space to offer a max deal). Johnson isn’t a max player anymore, but he is showing he can still contribute a lot in the right situation — and that means he can get paid more, and more importantly get more guaranteed years.
That may be in Miami. It may not. But Johnson went to Miami to show he can still play and contribute, and he has done that.
As for winning, how much of that Miami does in the playoffs will depend on the return of Bosh. They will miss him come the postseason.