One of the more interesting pending developments in the NBA right now is the possibility of the Brooklyn Nets buying out Joe Johnson, which would send a lot of teams after the veteran, with the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers at the top of the list.
The Nets have already cut ties with Andrea Bargnani now that they have a new general manager, and the Johnson situation is probably the most interesting thing about this team from now until the end of the season. Johnson himself has said a number of times he prefers to play out the remainder of his contract with the Nets (ends this season) and then find something that’s right for him through free agency, although nothing is set in stone, and the right kind of offer and leverage could make him change his mind. The Nets can obviously simply waive him and endure the costs.
At 34, the shooting guard/small forward is still productive enough to have a lot of teams monitoring his situation. The Cavaliers and others tried working out a trade for Johnson before the season began, but with a cap hit of close to $25 million, it was almost impossible working out anything without the Nets simply buying him out of his final year. There was no indication of anything like that happening during the early goings of the season.
For a player to be eligible to play in the playoffs, he has to be released from his current team before March 1, although he can be signed at any point until the beginning of the playoffs. The Heat are looking at players, but because they’ve finally been able to get out of the luxury tax zone by making some salary dump trades, they’re not going after David Lee or Steve Novak, waiting to sign someone in the second week of March and another at the end of the season if they want to fill up both their roster spots. They’re looking at Johnson, hoping he’s available by then.
But the problem for them is that the Cavaliers probably have the advantage when it comes to Johnson. Johnson has some sort of priority shortlist going on and the Cavs, thanks to LeBron James and the relatively easy road they have to go through in the East in order to make the NBA finals, are on top of it. While he isn’t ruling out re-signing with the Nets in the summer, winning, which isn’t going to happen right now in Brooklyn, is what he’s after the most.