(UPDATE: A person with knowledge of the process said the Hawks are to meet with J.J. again in L.A. with the expectation that the two sides will work out the details of a contract agreement.)
What’s up, blog people? Shaking off the cobwebs after staying up way too late and obsessively checking the Blackberry for some confirmation that J.J. accepted Atlanta’s maximium contract offer. No official word on that yet but my prediction that there’s no way he (or any other older free agent) leaves that much cash on the table is looking pretty good. I’ll update as the day goes along.
After Rick Sund met with Joe and his agent to extend the offer, the Knicks made their pitch to him. The Heat also are trying to get in the running. The Mavs also want to get an audience with Joe even though they have no cap room.
None of those teams has Atlanta’s $27 million advantage. Sure, J.J. could try to force a sign-and-trade to one of those teams and still get his Bird rights money, but that would require an agreement between the Hawks and the new team. Why go through all of that when a max offer is sitting in front of him?
Also, while the Hawks aren’t a championship-level team, they are better right now than any of the teams with the cap space to offer J.J. the max. Sure, those teams all can get better by making moves, but this is another area where J.J. has what he wants in front of him so why take a chance somewhere else? The Hawks are going to have to get creative to improve the team once J.J. re-signs but they already have a good team.
It seems much of the league was surprised that the Hawks offered the maximum. I couldn’t find anyone who predicted J.J. would re-sign in Atlanta, probably because no one believed ASG would spend the money. NBA.com’s David Aldridge says Sund and his people (who’ve always been big J.J. fans) had to convince the owners to make the investment. Aldridge also amplified what I said in yesterday’s blog about future trading possibilities for J.J.:
“And if the Hawks don’t break through in the East in the next couple of seasons, Johnson will only be 31 in the summer of 2012, and still have a lot of teams interested in his services. You can always trade him, the argument went; someone will rise up in the next few years into contender status, and teams on the rise tend to be more willing to go all-in for a year or two and make a trade for a high-priced player.”
That happens all the time in the NBA. It’s why when Michael Gearon Jr was lamenting that Jermaine O’Neal was overpaid last season, I was thinking that O’Neal still got traded along to Toronto and then later to Miami after the Pacers gave him a big-money deal. This was after he proved to be injury-prone and unable to get them over the top.
Aldridge ended his post with a sentiment I saw expressed by other reporters on Twitter last night: “It no doubt also came up that it’s highly unlikely that the current Atlanta Spirit ownership group will still be in charge of the Hawks in six years. Johnson’s due bill will be someone else’s problem by then.”
If that indeed is part of their rationale, it’s obviously a cynical point of view. From a practical standpoint it’s also risky since no one is lining up to buy sports teams nowadays. More likely, the Hawks figure they can always move J.J. later and start over if things don’t work out. It’s not an unrealistic expectation.