Joe Johnson is “intrigued” by the possibility of playing in Chicago or New York, an explanation for why he still hasn’t accepted the Hawks’ max contract offer, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com Friday night.
While Johnson, the centerpiece of the Hawks’ revived franchise, continues to lean toward returning to Atlanta, the developing situations with the Bulls and Knicks have his attention, the person familiar with the process said. The Bulls are trying to create a championship duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, or one of those players with Chris Bosh. But short of that happening, Chicago would be ready to move forward with Johnson as a second option – or perhaps as part of a tandem with James or Wade.
The Knicks will look to finalize an agreement with Amar’e Stoudemire on a five-year, $100 million contract over the weekend, and Stoudemire spent much of Friday trying to recruit an All-Star to join him. One such All-Star could be Johnson, but he’d have to forfeit more than $25 million in the process because only the Hawks can offer him a sixth year.
The only way around that would be to have Johnson’s agent, Arn Tellem, organize a sign-and-trade by which Johnson could get home-town money and still go to New York or Chicago. A person with knowledge of the situation said no such talks have been broached; Johnson first has to decide whether he wants to return to the Hawks before such negotiations begin.
Hawks executives, who offered Johnson a fully guaranteed deal for six-years and $120 million immediately upon the start of free agency at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, have waited patiently while Johnson enjoys the free-agent recruiting process. But at some point, the team will need an answer so it can pursue a viable replacement, sources said.