EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After last season ended, Joe Johnson said he expected changes. After a pricy and disappointing 38-44 season, it was only necessary. But he didn’t see it shaking out the way it happened.
“I didn’t see that coming — him getting bought out,” Johnson said Monday morning at the team’s Media Day availability, referring to the Nets agreeing to a buyout with Deron Williams.
“I don’t think it was that bad. It’s not that bad here. To want to get bought out, I couldn’t really put my finger around that one. But I hear that he’s happy and that’s the most important thing. He’s back home so good for him.”
Johnson and Williams, who were once billed as “Brooklyn’s Backcourt” at a lavish Brooklyn Borough Hall ceremony, have not spoken since the buyout. There are murmurs that the two had a frosty relationship, particularly near the end of the tenure.
The team fielded trade calls about Johnson in the summer, but sources inside the organization have consistently backed the team’s public comments: they were never seriously looking to trade Joe Johnson for the value he would get them on the market. The opposite was true of Williams: the two wanted a split either way, and after the Nets couldn’t figure out a workable trade, the team let him go.
“People may have inquired about Joe and we said no or we passed, but it wasn’t like we spent all offseason trying to trade Joe Johnson,” Nets GM Billy King said earlier this week. “People did call. We listened, but didn’t make the move. But it was not like all summer we were shopping Joe Johnson.”
Johnson, 34, is a steady veteran presence on the court and in the locker room for the Nets. He averaged 14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 34.9 minutes per game this past season, his lowest points per game average in over a decade.
His equivocation didn’t stop one former Nets point guard and locker room presence from weighing in with a tweet of disagreement (since deleted):
Taylor, who spent two seasons with the Nets between 2012 and 2014, then followed up:
Fck do I kno tho lol —
— tyshawn taylor (@tyshawntaylor) September 28, 2015
The Nets have removed themselves from championship talk this season, shifting away from Williams as the face of their franchise and to a younger core with a few veterans. There’s even talk that Johnson might not start for the entire season, and Lionel Hollins has admitted that he wants to limit Johnson’s minutes.
“Not necessarily with me and Deron, but I think the second year when we got Paul (Pierce) and Kevin (Garnett),” Johnson said. “I really thought (a championship) was realistic, and to come up short the way we did that was the most disappointing thing because I knew that was probably honestly our chance to come out of the East. But we didn’t. That was disappointing, but we’ve gotta move on and with this young group of guys try to see how far we can get.”