Maybe Tyler Johnson was worth that $50 million offer sheet after all.
Four years after the Nets gave him a $50 million offer sheet, which the Heat matched a few days later, Johnson finally donned a Brooklyn jersey and looked like the guy Sean Marks liked so much back in July 2016.
In his first game action since he played for the Suns on February 2, the 6’4” shooting guard scored 17 points and sank 3-of-5 attempts from 3-point range. At the end of the game, with the Spurs closing in and even taking the lead, Johnson scored eight points on back-to-back three’s with two and a half left, then hit a pull-up jumper that put the Nets up by four with a minute and a half left. Game over.
It was that instant energy, scrappiness and 3-point shooting that originally got the Nets attention ... and forced the Heat to make a series of roster moves to make sure they could match the Nets offer.
For the first two plus years of his contract, TJ was a classic sixth man for Miami. averaging 12 points a game coming off the bench 73 times in 2016-17, then 33 more the next season. He also hit better than 36 percent from deep in those two years. Under an oddity in his deal, those first two years cost the Heat a little more than $5 million each, a bargain.
Then, the backloaded deal got expensive — nearly $20 million a year expensive —and Johnson had knee issues. So off he went to Phoenix where he admits things “didn’t work out.” So much so that he was waived by the Suns on February 9. In a way, that was to Johnson’s and Brooklyn’s benefit. If Phoenix had waited another 20 days, Johnson wouldn’t have been eligible for the “bubble.”
Now, the Nets are happy to have the now 28-year-old.
“Tyler (Johnson) played really well,” said Caris LeVert “He has been in the league for a while. He’s experienced, he’s played in the playoffs and things like that. We are going to need him definitely going forward.”
Joe Harris, whose bench minutes will likely be filled by Johnson, agreed.
“Tyler (Johnson), I mean, even just playing against him all these years, seeing what he did in Miami, Phoenix – we know how capable of an offensive player he is and what he’s able to bring to our team,” said Harris. “Again, a healthy Tyler Johnson, we’re lucky to have. He looks great right now. He’s moving really well.
“Obviously he’s super efficient from the floor, but then he’s an excellent defender and communicator. He’s a good guy to have around, and we’re lucky to have him.”
Indeed, in addition to his offensive heroics late, TJ was playing an aggressive brand of defense.
“First, with Tyler (Johnson), I think you see his ability to make shots for us,” added Jacque Vaughn who inserted him late. “It’s pretty seamless for him to fit into the offense, have the basketball in his hands, and also being the receiver of the basketball.”
Unlike the four substitutes the Nets signed to replace those players who tested positive for the coronavirus or decided playing was too big of a risk, Johnson’s situation is different Brooklyn waived Theo Pinson to open a roster spot. As a result, Brooklyn has Non-Bird Rights on Johnson, giving them options if they want to keep him. (The other four will all be unrestricted free agents and the Nets will have no Bird Rights whatsoever.)
Johnson will make a little more than $212,000 for his play in the “bubble” — after making $19.2 million from Phoenix. So if the Nets do decide to sign him, it’ll be another reason for Johnson’s mother to consider Marks one of her favorite people.
- NETS 124, SPURS 119: TYLER JOHNSON DELIVERS IN NETS DEBUT - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets