As a scoring, over-used veteran on an underwhelming team and a big expiring contract, 34-year-old, seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson is a prime candidate for a potential buyout, one of the few potential impact players that has a chance of switching teams without a trade.
He’s a notable enough candidate that he can’t avoid the rumors. “It’s kinda hard (not to listen to it),” Johnson said Wednesday night about a potential buyout or trade. “It is what it is, man. It comes with the territory. Obviously me being an older player, I’ve seen it all, so nothing surprises me.”
After a slow start to the season, Johnson’s production has picked up in recent weeks. Since the beginning of January, Johnson has averaged 13 points and 4.4 assists in just under 33 minutes per game, shooting 46.7% from three-point range and 47.8% overall. With the trade deadline Thursday, Johnson appears safe from trade talk, due to the size of his deal. But a buyout is still a possibility.
“I’m taking it one day at a time, man,” Johnson said. “I don’t really know right now.”
Johnson confirmed he has spoken with his agent about his future, as he said he would. He declined to comment on the nature of their conversation. “We’ll see what happens.”
The team has little incentive to buy out Johnson’s contract other than to save money, which could potentially help them use one of their salary exceptions — if they wanted to. Ideally, Johnson’s role would be as a complementary player on a playoff-caliber team, but he’s instead tasked with carrying big minutes and ballhandling duties on the Nets, who only have two healthy point guards on their roster.
The Nets would need to buy out Johnson before March 1st for him to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. They currently do not have an official general manager.
Johnson spoke about his situation before the team’s first practice at their new waterfront practice facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, an eighth-floor space he called “awesome” just from seeing the court and the view.
“I’m not sure, man,” Johnson said when asked if the facility would be a draw for free agents. “You know, I’m not sure. But this definitely is tempting. I think the organization’s heading in the right direction.”