Storyline: Joe Johnson Free Agency

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LeBron James really wanted Joe Johnson to come to Cleveland after receiving a buyout from the Brooklyn Nets in late February. Sources with knowledge of James’ intentions informed cleveland.com that the four-time MVP made it known to Cavaliers’ management and Johnson that he would slide to power forward on a permanent basis to open up a starting spot for his former Olympic teammate. “All I care about is winning. That’s all that matters to me,” James confirmed to cleveland.com. “A piece like Joe, you know what it does to your team and if he was concerned about playing time or concerned about starting, then I’ll sacrifice. I’ll sacrifice to get a guy like that to help us try to win a championship.”

Joe Johnson’s family is already with him in Miami, and if the seven-time All-Star gets his way they will not be moving again anytime soon. The newly signed Heat forward said Tuesday that he and team President Pat Riley have had discussions about him finishing his career in Miami, one of the reasons why Johnson decided to sign with the team last week. “The most important thing that Pat told me was that this wasn’t just a short-term deal, that he would like for me to finish my career here,” Johnson said. “And that’s what we’re working toward.”

Joe Johnson said he chose to sign with the Miami Heat over other Eastern Conference contenders due to his relationship and familiarity with Dwyane Wade and other Heat players. The versatile swingman, who started in his first game with the Heat on Sunday against the New York Knicks, hopes to finish his career in Miami. “Man, I had a connection with a lot of guys here. D-Wade, [Amar’e Stoudemire], UD [Udonis Haslem], guys I’ve been in contact with. Not just throughout this process, but over the years, and I just felt it was right,” Johnson said prior to playing at Madison Square Garden with his new team.

The Nets on Thursday reached a buyout agreement with veteran forward Joe Johnson, who will become a free agent when he clears waivers on Saturday evening. According to a league source, the Celtics are “looking into” pursuing Johnson. Boston has a roster spot available after waiving David Lee last week. Johnson, who is reportedly being pursued by numerous playoff contenders, could be an intriguing fit as Boston makes its playoff push. The 34-year-old is averaging 11.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Celtics are in position to offer more money than several other potential suitors, as they have the full room exception available. That exception is valued at $2.814 million, and in this case would be prorated since Jan. 10, so it would be worth about $2 million. But Johnson is in the final season of a six-year, $124 million deal, so there is a very good chance he would favor a team that is closer to a championship, like the Cavaliers, over making a bit more money with a team like the Celtics.

Brad Stevens declined to comment on Johnson specifically, but outlined (again) what the Celtics could want in their final roster spot. “I think the biggest thing is just any time you’re talking about winning in this league right now, I think versatility is huge,” the coach said. “Certainly shooting’s a big deal. All those things come into play. Obviously with Kelly (Olynyk) out interior help is something that you’d have to consider but hopefully he’s not out too long. So there’s all kinds of things you could go through and look at but I think when you’re talking about a team like us, if we choose to look at that last roster spot, I think the versatility stands out more than anything else.”

Pat Riley already has said the Heat doesn’t plan to sign a player until the range of March 10 because of luxury tax considerations, and it remains to be seen if Johnson (who doesn’t need an extra two weeks of paychecks) would be willing to wait. Asked tonight whether he needs to rethink signing a player before March 10, Riley said: “We have to really wait and discuss that. Players have to clear waivers. Once they clear waivers, we’ll get in touch with their agents and we’ll have them prioritized.”

Maybe the more intriguing angle here: With an open roster spot and a need for some wing depth, could the Celtics be a possible landing spot for Johnson? Of the playoff teams reported to be interested, only the Celtics and Hawks have the ability to spend beyond a minimum salary (Boston has the $2.8 million room exception at its disposal). That gives Boston a possible edge over tax-paying teams like Houston, Oklahoma City and Miami, and teams with only the minimum available like Toronto and Cleveland.

Joe Johnson back to Atlanta?

The Hawks are interested in bringing back Joe Johnson. And a reunion is a real possibility. The Hawks are one of several teams with serious interest in signing the seven-time All-Star and Johnson has serious interest in the returning to Atlanta, according to several people familiar with the situation. The Nets bought out Johnson’s contract and waived the guard/forward on Thursday. Another team can claim Johnson and assume his salary. More likely, he will become a free agent when he clears waivers at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
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May 25, 2018 | 3:56 pm EDT Update