ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard says the Knicks will meet with J.J. in Los Angeles soon after free agency opens at midnight Thursday.
That’s no surprise since New York is one of a handful of teams with the cap space to offer J.J. a max deal and it’s always been speculated J.J. would look at the Knicks because of his his strong relationship with coach Mike D’Antoni from their Phoenix days. Until now I’d always heard New York wasn’t very interested in Johnson, but apparently that’s not the case. Broussard says the Knicks think J.J. can sell LeBron on teaming up in New York, which seems to be kind of a backwards arrangement.
The most interesting part of Broussard’s story is that he reports Johnson is willing to take less money from the Knicks, who can’t pay him as much as the Hawks due to salary-cap rules. According to Broussard, J.J. believes he can make up the roughly $25 million difference through endorsements and stock shares in Madison Square Garden. (Edit: I’m pretty sure paying a guy in stock options would be against NBA rules because it is a circumvention of the salary cap. Edit2: A helpful reader emailed to point out the league has already addressed this specific situation.) If the Hawks resign themselves to J.J.’s departure, he could get the $25 million and they could get an asset through a sign-and-trade.
Don’t ask me about the stocks, but J.J. hasn’t been a very marketable player, nor has he been very enthusiastic about marketing himself. Not sure how much that changes even playing in New York, especially if he’s on a team with either LeBron or Amare. And I’m still waiting to see all these older free agents willing to forsake $20-30 million in salary just so they can be more famous, play on a better team, bring in extra endorsements, live in a better city or whatever.
In any event, J.J. taking less money to play elsewhere is the scenario most feared by Atlanta . Rumblings that J.J. may be willing to do just that before free agency has already begun will only increase the Hawks’ nervousness about his departure. Getting the word out there certainly gives J.J. more leverage with the Hawks, who at some point may have to decide if they will give J.J. a six-year, maximum-level salary.
I wouldn’t think J.J. would be a New York kind of guy–if he thinks he got it bad here after fading in the playoffs, wait until he’s the goat in that city. I’ve always thought the Bulls would be J.J.’s most likely destination if he left Atlanta. Just a couple days ago K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that J.J. was ready to make an early commitment to the Bulls.
But then Jonathan Abrams wrote in the New York Times that the Bulls are the favorites to land LeBron and Bosh, which would not leave money for J.J. Then again, maybe Bosh really is headed for Miami and then J.J. and LeBron can team up in Chicago.
Already you can see how free agency is going to be a pretty silly season.