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Bold Moves: Joe Johnson Set to Sign With Hawks for Max Deal

With Joe Johnson set to accept the Atlanta Hawks max offer of six years at between 119 and 124 million, Hawks nation has been turned upside down by the move. It also seems to have caught the rest of the league by surprise as no one thought that the Hawks ownership group would actually offer him the max deal. Remember this is the same group that nearly split apart over the sign and trade deal that brought Joe to Atlanta in the first place. 

If Hawks ownership really wanted Johnson back then they did exactly what they had to do. Johnson's camp allegedly was requesting the max and the Hawks jumped to the front of the line and made their intentions known at the beginning of free agency. As has been reminded throughout the time leading up to free agency, if it came down to money then the Hawks would always have the last say because they could by rule offer the most. Now it remained to be seen whether they could actually afford to do so but by Salary Cap rules they could offer the most. 

Surprisingly the Hawks did just that as Rick Sund met with Johnson and his agent to deliver the offer and his sales pitch. Johnson has met with other teams but barring something coming out of left field in the form of a sign and trade, Joe Johnson will once again be an Atlanta Hawk. 

More reaction and what the organization is thinking and should be thinking after the jump.

I had not been blogging long at Soaring Down South when I was invited to bloggers night with many of our contemporaries in the blogging community. We were treated to a credentialed visit to a game at Phillips Arena and a sit down question and answer session with Hawks GM Rick Sund. Being the complete rookie that I was I just soaked up the atmosphere. I went into this meeting with doubts about the Joe Johnson situation coming up in the off season. Now granted Sund had no idea what was going to happen in the playoffs but he made it clear to us that night that the Hawks would do everything they could to bring Joe back. 

I remember reflecting on the meeting while on my drive home and the only thing I was completely sure about was that they would give Joe whatever it took to bring him back. They made good on that promise apparently last night. This wasn't some last minute offer as Sund told us everything they had done financially up to that point such as structuring Mike Bibby and Marvin Williams deals to decline in their second year were made with re signing Joe in mind. No doubt that everything that has happened since then was made with resigning Joe in mind as well. Larry Drew was hired to a lesser value than what former coach Mike Woodson was making. The Hawks traded down in the draft to gain an extra draft pick only to turn around and sell it later. No doubt in this writer's mind that all of those instances relate to bringing Joe back. 

I don't think the franchise has deviated one bit from it's plan. Now the people in the Hawks blogosphere might not agree with the "plan" but I think that this has been the organization's intent from the beginning. 

Last night while watching NBA TV's free agency preview show, I and some other Hawks fans struck up a conversation with former AJC Hawks beat writer and current writer Sekou Smith. I asked him for his reaction to the Johnson offer. He had this to say:

Did they have a choice? They have to try and keep him. You can't lose him and walk away with nothing. Can't do it.

Later he added:

If Im the Hawks I'd rather have Joe on my team than not. The price is not a concern for me. But it's not my money.

Interesting that he would say that since the question is now being asked whether this team will be even owned by the Atlanta Spirit Group by the time Johnson's contract ends.

Sekou also talked about fans "being more critical of their own" which does have some meaning and sited that many teams out there would love to have Joe Johnson playing for them. Sekou went own to mention the poll on Peachtree Hoops that currently over 70% of fans that voted think that Joe Johnson should sign elsewhere own the air. 

So to answer the question why did the Hawks give Joe Johnson the max? Because rather they had to if they wanted to keep him. There were other teams that would have over payed to get him and the Hawks jumped to the front of the line. 

It has been cast that Joe would be a better second or third option on a team. Rumors had him playing sidekick in a number of other destinations. Apparently that is the opinion throughout the rest of the league. In Atlanta by making this move, the Hawks are saying that they already have two such running mates for Johnson. They are banking on Josh Smith and Al Horford to continue to rise to all NBA level. There are no such guarantees but the fact remains that perhaps this organization values its own players just a little too much. I love them both, but can Larry Drew's system really put the ball in their hands enough for them to achieve that level? 

So if the deal does happen then this contract will have to be viewed as a "short term gain, long term loss". That is what this franchise will be faced with and have to deal with in the coming years. If this franchise wasn't already, this contract places it firmly in "Win Now" mode. By that I mean that any moves that are made over the rest of this summer and next should maximize the team's ability to win now.

That means that there can not be any giveaway deals such as Josh Childress for a future draft pick. If you sign Johnson to this contract and then pawn off Childress or Jamal Crawford's expiring deal for spare parts then you really have to question the people calling the shots and their motives for doing so. Now is the time to go into the luxury tax threshold if that is what the situation calls for. I don't know if the Atlanta Spirit has the means to do that but that is what this contract decision calls for.

While the Johnson signing is a bold move the situation calls for another bold move. The Boston Celtics acquired Ray Allen and then completed another bold move by trading for Kevin Garnett. They thrust themselves into luxury tax land for the chance to win a championship which they did. This Hawks team can't make one bold move just to bring back the same team that fizzled out in the second round of the playoffs last year. Rick Sund can't believe that his summer is over now. In fact it is just started. This can't be it. We can't sign this year's Joe Smith to round out the roster and say we will just break through to the Finals with a new coach. 

If ownership and management really believes that then Joe Johnson is the least of this franchise's problems