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Nets waive James Johnson, to convert Kessler Edwards to standard contract

Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets requested waivers on forward James Johnson Thursday afternoon. By waiving the veteran forward, the team has opened a standard roster spot which the team will use on two-way wing, Kessler Edwards. The rookie will be signed to a standard NBA contract and will be eligible for postseason play.

Without the standard deal, Edwards would have been ineligible to play in the post-season, play-in tournament included. Under NBA rules, two-ways cannot play beyond the end of the regular season. Teams have to submit their 15-man post-season rosters by Monday at 3:00 p.m., the day after the regular season ends.

Edwards, who was drafted No. 44 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, beat the odds and earned his way into a roster spot. The rookie wing spent seven games with the Nets G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets, before carving out a role in Brooklyn’s injury and illness depleted rotation. After hitting the rookie wall around the NBA All-Star break, Edwards' role diminished but once beyond the wall, the 21-year-old has played very well. He has seen action in 46 games this season, starting in 22 of them — both of which lead all Brooklyn rookies. He’s averaged 5.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 20.1 minutes.

On April 4, one week prior to the roster finalization deadline, Steve Nash hinted at the Edwards move to reporters at Nets practice. Asked about converting Edwards to a standard deal, Steve Nash adopted “you never know” attitude, noting that of course, it’s a front office decision.

Our Alec Sturm reports that in a recent conversation with a Nets official, he was told the Nets were “definitely aware” of Edwards situation and were working on it.

As Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype reports, Brooklyn is limited to giving Edwards a two-year minimum deal. As for Johnson, he can be claimed or signed by another team but isn’t eligible for postseason play.

Waiving a veteran player like Johnson just prior to the post-season is indeed rare. Under league rules, if he had been waived on or before March 1, he could’ve hooked up with another team and been eligible for the playoffs.

Johnson, who played in 62 games for Brooklyn this season, did not play in the last two games, the Nets citing a “non-COVID illness.” The 35-year-old forward’s run with the Nets ends with averages of 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists in 19.2 minutes per game. He started in 10 of the 62 games he saw action in.

Edwards elevation means that for the final two games of the season, one of the Nets’ two two-way slots will be open. Nets are reportedly considering filling that vacancy. David Duke Jr. is the other two-way. Barring some other surprise, his season will end Sunday.