We have talked about this issue before here. First and foremost, what the no-sign means today is the Hawks still have a chance to sign Joe Johnson to a deal that is not over market value. Despite the immediate positive reactions of both the assumed and the surprising over the idea of having Joe on their team, I still contend that the market for Johnson in 2010 will not be nearly as feverish as maybe the Hawks brass and Joe himself assume. The cap is shrinking, the money is limited, and an enormous amount of players big and small will be looking and taking a piece of that pie. Even with all the exemptions and weird loop holes, their is still a finite amount of cash to spend. When it is gone, it is gone. And for the unrestricted guys, there is not a qualifying offer to fall back on.
The weird part about this whole rejection is what was rejected though. Four years 60 million. That is 15 million a year, a raise from his previous max contract. On the surface, the deal appears fair, even advantageous, for Joe Johnson to sign it. He would not have to worry about injury, secure his long term future, etc. etc. But Joe did not sign it. He wants to" focus on the season" or some other generalized idea that could probably be more easily done by actually signing a contract.
The no-sign raises a lot of possibilities. And the good news for Hawks fans is very few of them are outright bad. So without further ado lets venture to a land of possibilities, a place I call "the land of ......possibilities."
Joe Johnson sees the competitiveness of the open market and returns to the Hawks for same contract
I think the Hawks will struggle to contend for a championship the next four years if Joe Johnson is far and away the highest paid player. This leaves open the possibility that he could not be, but not by much. At least in the free agency market, this contract can be tested a bit by supply and demand.
Joe Johnson signs the same deal with Atlanta for the same money per year offered earlier...but for one more year.
No good. No good.
Joe Johnson does not want to play for the Hawks
He is well aware Atlanta made a legitimate fair offer and is ready to move on. This could be for one of three reasons.
1. He does not think the Hawks will ever be championship contenders. The first reason is a knock on the organization and possiblity an ironic stance by Joe. To be a championship contender, Joe Johnson may have to leave.
2. He wants to play with a superstar. Joe loves being top dog. I find this one hard to believe. But when he signs for less money to play with LeBron James in New York, now you can't say I told you so.
3. He will go to the "new" Atlanta if that is the only place that will pay him max money for max years. If this is the case, Hawks, you do what Phoenix did and you let Joe know if you really want to be greedy lets work a sign and trade so you can get the most money possible and we can get first round draft picks.
Joe sees the competitiveness of the open market and the Hawks sign him for less than they originally offered.
Anything that gets Joe Johnson back in a Hawks uniform and does not tie the hands of the organization financially is a win in my book.
Joe is using this year as a litmus test
He is willing to sacrifice guaranteed money for an extra years worth of information about this team. How big a jump can Al Horford make in his third year? Can Josh Smith tie any of the loose ends of his game together? Will Woodson be back? What is Jeff Teague all about? Joe wants to win and he wants to win it all. If the Hawks are not on the right track, he plans to move on.
I find this one to be oddly win/win. If the Hawks are on the right track, great, Joe is back. If they are not, the hardest piece to get rid of via trade can simply be let go of via free agency.
Where we go from here
I give an enormous amount of credit to Joe Johnson for leading the turnaround on the Hawks. If he leaves, you will not find any bashing on this blog. Number two will hold a special and revered place in my heart. But I do not think Joe is worth a second max contract both due to his age/minutes logged and the cap space crunch felt by so many teams. That being said I am glad Joe is being pursued. Rick Sund did not low ball him or disrespect his value. They treated Joe like he deserved to be, and he choose to test the water.
Sund has the leeway to play hardball now, a luxury some GMs might not have with a player fans hold at such a distinguished level. Sund has shown himself to be quite adept with restricted free agents, and Joe will be the first real test case on unrestricted. It should be a very interesting summer No matter what happens the fact remains, the Hawks can only make a horrible move in one of two ways. If they overpay or let him go and don't return to the fourth seed, only the former is a fact in of it self, and the latter was never that lofty of a goal anyway.
Sekou Smith has a fairly reasoned take thinking it is that extra year that is the hang up. Although I would contend Joe does not have the leverage Sekou thinks he does.