Shaq says Joe Johnson’s contract one reason for NBA mess

Shaq: "I like you but you're overpaid. Now give me that ball."

Shaq: "I like you but you're overpaid. Now give me that ball."

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the NBA lockout, and maybe that’s something the league’s owners and players should really be thinking about during their talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.

But the recently retired Shaquille O’Neal just spoke, and he says if you’re looking for a reason why the league is having significant financial issues, you can start with the Hawks’ Joe Johnson.

O’Neal told the New Orleans Times Picayune that Johnson’s six-year, $119 million contract is a an example of a franchise overpaying for a player despite lacking the revenue to pay the contract. Shaq completely left out the fact that Johnson too often is a no-show in the playoffs, but maybe he didn’t want to be too tough in his early days as a commentator.

The money quote from Shaq: “I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy. Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.”

So now in addition to being called out by fans and media, the Hawks — or at least their outgoing owners, the Atlanta Spirit — have been called out by a Hall of Fame player.

O’Neal is exactly right. Most financial problems in sports leagues are created not by greedy players but by owners who can’t control themselves. The problem the NBA has now is that players have had it so good for so long, with crazy dollars and six- or seven-year contracts, that it’s going to be difficult for owners to impose a new CBA on them that dials it way back.

O’Neal said he still believes there will be an NBA season but it won’t likely start on time. So there will be plenty of off days between now and then if Joe and Shaq want to hang out.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

175 comments Add your comment

JMar

September 21st, 2011
9:24 am

Essentially the Hawks are a poorly managed Ponzi Scheme.

BF

September 21st, 2011
9:25 am

agree completely…plus…how about a break between seasons so it’s actually missed.

Vain Jangling

September 21st, 2011
9:28 am

Johnson’s contract upholds a long-standing Hawks tradition. He’s smply Jon Koncak, adjusted for inflation.

bill

September 21st, 2011
9:29 am

Cherokee

September 21st, 2011
9:30 am

It’s not Joe Johnson, it’s the now-defunct Atlanta Spirit Group that is to blame. I’m a Hawks and former Thrashers (now Jets) fan and that group of inept owners essentially had one of my teams ripped away from the city and now the other one may not play a game.

Flounder

September 21st, 2011
9:31 am

Atlanta has an NBA team?? Oh yeah, I forgot.

CharlestonDAWG

September 21st, 2011
9:31 am

Complain all you want. Yes we over-paid for Joe, but if we didnt sign him, every hawks fan would whine and cry about how the ownership doesnt want to win. Without Joe, we are not a playoff team. With Joe, we are a playoff team that’s not good enough to win it all. PERIOD

Drago

September 21st, 2011
9:32 am

Did Shaq hurt his back when he said that? He should know about not showing up in the playoffs. Shaq may be the most overpaid player in the history of sport. But, since he is paid to talk now, he has to say something.

Who cares

September 21st, 2011
9:32 am

Sure wish the entire season would be cancelled!

Danny O

September 21st, 2011
9:33 am

To call the Hawks a Ponzi scheme is a bit off, but I would certainly say that they have not been well-managed. I can’t believe that they let Billy Knight hold the reins for so long. But then again, this is the same crowd that couldn’t tell Don Waddell to find a new line of work.

So how does the NBA “protect the owners from each other?” There’s already a salary cap, but apparently that hasn’t worked.

Najeh Davenpoop

September 21st, 2011
9:33 am

Thank God the DASG is gone.

Kevin

September 21st, 2011
9:34 am

This story is just ridciulious!!! Last time I checked JJ did not put a gun to the head of the owners to pay him this contract.The owners had the choice of either to pay him or not. There should be no system to protect a business owner in a captialisic environment from himself. You have a choice!!! And lastly let’s look at the source at this source shall we. Shaq, from what I remembered got TWO hundred million contracts in his career. Now that he’s retired and made his money now he want’s to speak on protecting the owners???!!!! GTFOH

Simeon Rice N Gravy

September 21st, 2011
9:35 am

I could definitely go a year without these overpaid brats playing. The reason nobody is talking is because the NBA sucks.

Walker, Texas Ranger

September 21st, 2011
9:36 am

Shaq is dead on, VJ you make a great point, this is a long standing trandition just like being a middle of the pack NBA team

Walker, Texas Ranger

September 21st, 2011
9:37 am

Drago he may not have hurt his back but I hurt mine from laughing.

Astro Joe

September 21st, 2011
9:38 am

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the NBA lockout

Maybe if the AJC would open up an NBA blog, there would be more “talk”. We were allowed to chat during the NFL work stoppage, what gives?

Jamaaliver

September 21st, 2011
9:42 am

Astro Joe, nobody trusts the NBA fans to behave themselves on an unmonitored blog.

NBA Fan

September 21st, 2011
9:42 am

Yeah flounder we do have an NBA team and……..oh wow! I just got up off your mom this morning. I forgot!

Dozer

September 21st, 2011
9:42 am

Shaq’s wrong – the Spirit got Joe Johnson cheap – it would have cost another $20M for his heart and another $20M on top of that for his personality…….

Go_Bravos

September 21st, 2011
9:43 am

He’s right though. Joe is defintely not a $20mil a year player. Thats ELITE status and frankly he just bogs an offense down with his “iso” tendencies. That said he is pretty smart to get the contract, and who in their right mind would turn down that kind of money?

Ted M

September 21st, 2011
9:45 am

That contract ruined the Hawks for a minimum of 5 years.

Jamaaliver

September 21st, 2011
9:46 am

Shaq is completely right on this one.

KG’s old contract in the 90s with Minnesota led to the 1999 lockout.
Joe Johnson’s contract with ATL is a prime reason for this year’s lockout. That and Melo strong arming his old team for a trade to NYC.

JJ’s contract is also a big reason why ATL no longer has a Hockey Team.

Texas Pete

September 21st, 2011
9:48 am

Kevin,

Stop being so bitter. People hating on Shaq obviously forget that he was one of the most dominant players in the league for a long time and he’s won multiple championships on multiple teams. Hard to argue paying someone with his resume. Those saying Shaq was overpaid compared to Joe should look at Joe’s resume and get back to the group…

Twest

September 21st, 2011
9:50 am

Well I’m just trying to get my cat Clyde Boogie in a commercial with Blake Griffin.

cpsman_atlanta

September 21st, 2011
9:51 am

Blame the Hawks for the fact that the Thrashers are playing in Winnipeg, and blame ASG for this mess with the lockout. If they had all worked together from day one, there would still be hockey, which more people have passion for than they do basketball.

LookNtheMirrow

September 21st, 2011
9:51 am

I CAN’T Wait for the NBA season to start and to watch my Chicago Bulls play again. NBA does not have spoiled brats, college football AD’s and Presidents are the spoiled brats. Universities say it’s not about the money, we want to educate the kids, B***S***. I mother always told me that you can rob people more with a suitcase than with a gun. College football is the biggest Ponzi Scheme going today!!!!!!!!

dap01

September 21st, 2011
9:53 am

The contract is an embarrashment to the Hawks. JJ is in decline, he is a great player but he is in decline. He is not a premier player, he is not a franchise player. Now his contract will ensure that he Hawks are nothing but an average team for the next decade.

Sickening….. and Shaq is right.

dap01

September 21st, 2011
9:54 am

I don’t blame JJ for taking the contract, I blame management for the stupidy for offering it.

Keyboard-bravado-is-whack

September 21st, 2011
9:55 am

How many championships does Shaquille have? Nuff said….

ThreePoints

September 21st, 2011
9:56 am

When is President Obama going to step in and insist we stop paying millions
to players. He thinks rich stinks, this is a good place for him to start. And that
money has to come from some where and it’s out of our pockets in the products
and services we buy and receive. Even if you never watch or read about sports,
your paying.

fes

September 21st, 2011
9:59 am

JJ’s contract killed the Thrashers. Thanks ASG!

ATL Fan

September 21st, 2011
10:03 am

CharlestonDAWG,
People complained when Thomas Dimitroff got rid of some good players when he arrived. The ability to make unpopular, but right, decisions is what will offer a team a chance to be great.
The Falcons are now consistent winners that are continuing to improve. The Hawks are worrying what people will think, and thereby condemning the team to it’s current level (of suceess) or below.

Peter

September 21st, 2011
10:03 am

With his poor attitude JJ is worth 1/2 that much…

But who said the Atlanta Spirit, which constantly lost money each year, had any financial sense ?

Thank the heavens they are GONE !

Peter

September 21st, 2011
10:05 am

Hey Dozer…. Where is JJ’s heart…… In his massive bling purchases ?

Mr. Dawg

September 21st, 2011
10:06 am

The fact that Shaq said Joe is overpaid is essentially calling him out Jeff. But the gist of this is correct, the system is flawed and just like with Major League Baseball, the players need to realize they’ve had it too good. For the sake of the health of the league – which unltimately means their own jobs as well – they need to give some back. Joe’s contract is a prime example.

Texas Pete

September 21st, 2011
10:09 am

The Hawks were here before the Thrashers and are here after… If hockey had more supporters in this city then why didn’t fans turn out for more games? Don’t blame the Hawks for the Thrashers leaving. The Hawks are a playoff team and the Thrashers fell flat on their face after their one playoff season.

The proof is in the pudding that the ASG wasn’t able to sell the Thrashers to anyone willing to keep the team in Atlanta but was able to unload the Hawks with ease.

Personal Responsibility

September 21st, 2011
10:10 am

dap01…

I agree 100%. As I remember, the average person was ready to pack his bags and drive him to the airport. There should have been no pressure on the owners to pay him. The real fight is between the owners. There are about 4 to 6 teams that should be contracted. There are cities other than Miami(worst sports city outside of the Dolphins ever) that deserve the big 3 more.

iceHAWKcold11

September 21st, 2011
10:12 am

No excuses for JJ but how can you blame a man for being in the right place at the right time even if he is not worth it. HE IS NOT THE FIRST AND HE WON’T BE THE LAST IN SPORTS HISTORY TO DO SO………………..Its called the AMERICAN WAY, don’t you just love it?

CDawg42

September 21st, 2011
10:13 am

Wow…dead on, Shaq.

Marie

September 21st, 2011
10:18 am

In order for Shaquille to hang out with Joe he would have to wake his sleepy, lazy looking butt up first.

Personal Responsibility

September 21st, 2011
10:19 am

Send Joe Johnson to Chicago. The need a 2 guard bad to get over the hump and I would love to get Deng and what ever garbage they have to equal JJ’s contract. We then need to go get Kaman from the Clippers.

Kevin

September 21st, 2011
10:19 am

Texas Pete.

I am not bitter but I just don’t see how this is the players fault. Let me give you a analogy to make my point.

Lets say you are the parent of a 6 year old son. Now when it comes to dinner timen you know to feed your child healthy nutrtious food. But of course your child wants junk food and candy for dinner. To make it seem that you are not a bad parent you feed him pizza, candy, fried foods, etc. Fast forward 10 years and now your son weighs 400 pounds. Now as the parent you are furious at the system, i.e fast food restarurants, burger chains, to now you want to reformat the system to where you can only buy one burger a week or something to that degree. As the parent you say that you need a nutrional system that is more balanced to help you raise your child in a healthy manner.

Now I ask you one question: Who fault is it? Is it the parents fault or the “system” fault?

Personal Responsibility

September 21st, 2011
10:22 am

iceHAWKcold11…No one is angry at Joe for taking that contract. We appauled him and his agent. We are mad at mgmt.

timthebrave

September 21st, 2011
10:22 am

At least the Spirit Group no longer owns them. It will take about 5-10 years for the Hawks to recover and hockey is gone forever. It ruins my day even thinking about them

Diego

September 21st, 2011
10:22 am

The $20 mil./year JJ signing has indeed shackled the Hawks for 5 more years. So certainly don’t expect improvement–there is no excess $. But CharlestonDAWG is right–if we had lost Joe, the fans would have gone balistic.

Actually, the Spirit tried hard and spent a lot of $ of the Hawks roster (and really were passionate about the team); they just did not have the deep pockets (and had too many members) to really make it as an owner. I think this Cal. pizza chain owner has no idea how tough $-wise it will be as the Hawks owner. (I just hope we get free pizza coupons when the Hawks hit 100 in a game.)

And bashing Billy Knight is ridiculous. He built the current team, which is a pretty good team (just not a potential title winner): Drafted Josh Smith (with a pretty low 1st round pick); traded for Joe Johnson; and drafted Horford (over Mike Conley–thank God–, much to the dismiss of a lot of Hawks fans). Yes, he botched the Marvin pick (which is just obvious in retrospect) and the Speedy trade, but those really were his only 2 mistakes. (He also stole (in retrospect) Pau Gasol from the Hawks when he was GM of the Grizzlies.)

JSS

September 21st, 2011
10:26 am

“Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that much money. But if you are going to offer a kid a lot of money, he’s going to take it. I think we need a system that protect the owners from each other.”
–Shaquille O’Neal–

And this is core of all things wrong in both the NBA and in the NFL as well. If you’re not going to do the core thing that being in a “corporation” entales, you’re bound to be see such situations. The ASG never treat their own entity correctly, Belkin was given a position in contract that in hindsight was a ticking franchise time bomb… The only strength in multi-party corporations is cooperation, That was never the case with that group.

The NBA is littered with these types owners, way under capitalized for what they attempting to endeavor. Even in the best of all worlds, the NBA financials models are askew, not because of salaries, but because of revenue streams and how they share the profit structures. The Hawks overpaid for Johnson, Koncak, McCormick, and Rausmussen contractually. Each time, the system in place pounded then for this. As Shaq said, don’t blame the players, blame the check writers.

Look, say that we see the change to the 45% share of the profit for the players. There is nothing in the agreement that will make the owners any smarter in spending the profit windfall. A Hard cap only means that you shrink labor cost, sounds good on the surface, but the owner (see Donald Sterling) who is already doing that and staying way below the cap (the Maloofs) are not trying to better the product. That is why the Bird exemption was created. The problem is making wrong choices (Diaw and Williams) doesn’t give one the ability to get better, the Hawks should be bad to middle of the road, they made bad choices!

Sportsfan

September 21st, 2011
10:29 am

This sport will not be missed by most.

JSS

September 21st, 2011
10:43 am

Oh by the way, Joe Johnson’s contract is not the reason the Thrashers are gone. Look at the facts, they were trying to sale that team from Day One. The financial model for the Hawks/Thrashers franchises were a mess. having undercapitalized owners who then went about cannibalizing each other… If the Thrashers might have been sold at the beginning, maybe you’d still have an NHL team. However, the debt and loss structure of the Thrashers was amazingly bad. Their fate was sealed back in the Time-Warner days….

CharlestonDAWG

September 21st, 2011
10:48 am

Toche ATL fan!!! I cant wait til Sunday. I hope the Falcons lay it to the Bucs!!! The only game Im catching this year will be the Falcons/Panthers in Charlotte but will be doing the dirty bird in my red and black all day!!! I hope we can stuff Cam I am!! ATL fan, The braves gonna turn it around????

Texas Pete

September 21st, 2011
10:49 am

Kevin,

No one said it was the player’s fault. Shaq blamed Joe Johnson’s contract! “Contract” is the subject. The article even said that of course players are going to accept the large contracts offered. Who wouldn’t?

You analogy doesn’t apply here. The relationship between CBA, owners, and players is not like diet, parents, and children. A child has to follow the rules of the parent and eat what the parent provides. A player gets drafted or signed as a free agent and is free to negotiate the terms of his deal relative to his perceived market value. In the case of Joe Johnson, his market value may or may not have commanded $20 million a year on the free agent market but the ASG felt that keeping the status quo versus letting him walk and being accused of not trying to win a championship was worth $20 million a year. It was a no win situation for the ASG. In hindsight, the Hawks probably would have been relatively fine without Joe. They might have finished 7th or 8th instead of 5th but they would have been a quality team and had plenty of money available to go after a big name to backfill Joe’s role.

A child does not have the option of selecting new parents if he doesn’t get as much candy as he’d like.