Even before the Nets pursued buyout talks with Deron Williams, ownership and management were always lukewarm about dealing Joe Johnson. As one league source told NetsDaily, the Nets were never aggressively marketing the 6'8" swingman. The preference was always to dump Williams.
There may have been perfunctory talks with Memphis, apparently initiated by the Grizzlies, and Cleveland, based on LeBron James desire to add him to the Cavs mix after an injury-marred post-season deprived them of scoring punch. But pushing him and his $24.9 million contract? It wasn't the top priority.
There were two reasons: one was obvious: dealing that contract wouldn't be easy. It would likely require the Nets to take on bad deals (like Anderson Varejao), ones that go beyond this season, in return. The other was less so: the Nets --both Lionel Hollins and Billy King-- like having seven-time All-Star around. Knowing they were going to get younger, the Nets wanted Johnson's veteran presence and his scoring ability back. They still harbor dreams of making the playoffs -- and avoid giving a lottery pick to their division rivals in Boston.
In the days after the Kevin Garnett trade, Hollins spoke about how Johnson had become a more vocal leader after KG departed. "Joe has stepped up and been more of a verbal leader than everyone says he ever was. So you lose one dominating voice and all of a sudden, there's a lot of voices that step up," said Hollins.
Moreover, various sources inside the Nets have suggested that the departure of D-Will is likely to help Johnson rebound. It was no secret that Brooklyn's Backcourt didn't get along. That famous Johnson tweet back in early November was believed to be about his relationship with Williams.
I'm off this shit!!— Joe Johnson 4real (@TheJoeJohnson7) November 9, 2014
One insider, asked after the buyout if the Nets were still pursuing a Johnson trade, firmly said no. He volunteered there was probably no one more pumped about the buyout than Johnson. "I am sure Joe will have a tremendous season," he added with a smile.
Johnson was indeed unhappy with the Nets situation, as he laid out the day after the season ended.
"Something’s going to happen. I don’t know what. I don’t see us coming back as the same team. This is my third year here. I could see if we were getting better each year, but it’s kind of been the opposite. So to not even be a .500 ball club in the East, it’s disheartening."
In recent days, there were rumors out of Cleveland that James would still like to see the Cavs pursue Johnson, but they dealt their biggest trade piece --Brendan Haywood's non-guaranteed deal -- to Portland and possibly more importantly, Mikhail Prokhorov noted in his video message to fans that "Joe Johnson stays as a core player."
Of course, nothing in the NBA is set in stone and there might be a market for him in February, but for now, the Nets like having Johnson around.
- NBA AM: Some Trade Rumors Just Won’t Go Away - Steve Kyler - Basketball Insiders
- Joe Johnson, Deron Williams didn't get along - Devin Kharpertian - The Brooklyn Game
- The Nets never wanted to trade Joe Johnson, according to report - Jesse Gomez - SB Nation
- Report: Joe Johnson "pumped" that Deron Williams bought out by Nets - Kurt Helin - NBC Sports
Report: Joe Johnson and Deron Williams didn’t get along - Brian Erni - SNY Nets
- A Brief History of Deron Williams Feuding With Everyone Ever - Matt Moore - Hardwood Paroxsym
Deron Williams Is No Longer With the Nets, and Joe Johnson Is Reportedly Pumped - Brett Pollakoff - Complex