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JOHNSON RETURNS: Nets sign Cam Johnson to four year, $108 million deal

2023 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Nets hectic free agency continued early Friday evening with the signing of Cam Johnson to a four-year, $108 million deal that includes unlikely incentives, higher than most pundits had expected but more than enough to scare away the competition.

Johnson, who had been a fourth option at best in Phoenix, exploded once he joined Brooklyn at the trade deadline. After averaging 13.9 points and shooting 47/46/82 in Phoenix, he topped that in his 25 regular season games as a Net (all starts) with a 16.6 average on 47/37/85. Then, in the four post-season games vs. Philly, he did it again, averaging 18.5 on 51/43/86. It was clear from early on that the two sides had a mutual attraction.

“I’ve really come to appreciate the people here and that means a tremendous amount to me,” Johnson said before free agency. “I haven’t made any decisions business-wise yet, but I definitely have factors I’m considering and I am warming up to New York, certainly.”

Last week in Melbourne, Australia, he told a podcast that once he got done with free agency, he would do some serious house-hunting in Brooklyn, noting the borough contains many great neighborhoods.

The move to bring back Johnson, a restricted agent, followed by four hours the Nets decision to trade Joe Harris along with two second rounders to Detroit for the barest of returns — $110,000 in cash considerations. By taking on Harris $19.9 million expiring deal, the Pistons essentially ruled themselves out of the Johnson sweepstakes. The Pistons and Rockets were seen as possible suitors for the restricted agent. The Nets could have matched any offer sheet tendered by any other NBA team and may have scared away competition by letting it be known — repeatedly — that they would indeed match.

Most pundits had expected Johnson to command anywhere from $87 million to $100 million with most believing that the Nets and Johnson would settle at around $90 million. Johnson had turned down a four-year, $72 million offer from the Suns before they traded him, Mikal Bridges, four unprotected first rounds, a first round swap and two seconds for Durant and T.J. Warren.

The Nets now have Johnson signed through 2026-27, Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith through 2025-26, Ben Simmons through 2024-25 as well as Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale signed through next season.

Johnson’s deal, an average of $27 million a year (with incentives,) will make him the second highest paid Nets player next season after Simmons at $37.9 million. Bridges, Johnson’s best friend on the team, signed a four-year, $90 million deal with Phoenix last summer, an average of $22.5 million. Bridges had lobbied both the Nets to pay Johnson and Johnson to stay in Brooklyn.

Shortly after the Woj tweet, Bridges posted this on Twitter...

Omari Sankofa II, who covers the Pistons for the Detroit Free Press, detailed how the Haaris and Johnson deals were essentially linked. In discussing the Harris trade earlier Friday, he pointed out that by taking on Harris’ contract, the Pistons had given up on signing Johnson.

[The Pistons] now have roughly $10 million in cap space available, well short of the amount needed to sign restricted free agent Cameron Johnson away from Brooklyn. Another league source told the Free Press earlier this week that while Johnson was a likely target for the Pistons, they were unlikely to overpay for the 27-year-old sharpshooter. Because the Nets can match any outside offers, the Pistons appear to have decided to go a different route altogether.

Sankofa described the Pistons return in the trade as “nothing.”

Bobby Marks tweeted that the Nets still have some cap flexibility after the Johnson agreement...

Johnson’s extension puts him in the first order of big contracts signed on the first day of free agency, with only three players getting larger packages.