5:24pm: The Heat are expected to waive a player in the immediate future which will help them remain under the tax line after inking Johnson, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel relays (on Twitter).
1:47pm: The Heat expect they’ll sign Joe Johnson this weekend, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com (Twitter links). He’s indeed headed to Miami, barring an unforeseen turn of events, as Ethan Skolnick of The Miami Herald confirms (on Twitter). The 15th-year veteran clears waivers Saturday. So, it appears Miami is poised to cross back into tax territory. The Heat would have to wait until March 6th to sign Johnson or anyone else to a minimum salary contract without putting themselves in line to pay repeat-offender tax penalties. Miami could work a buyout with another player to avert the tax or waive someone and hope another team claims him, though those scenarios rely on the cooperation of others. Failing any such tax escape hatch, a minimum-salary deal with Johnson would cost about $125K in taxes, $265K in salary and force the team to miss out on a $2.5MM windfall that would come from the league’s payout to non-tax teams, according to Bobby Marks of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).
Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv first identified the Heat as the front-runners for Johnson earlier today, a reversal from last week, when Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer heard Johnson would sign with the Cavs if he worked a buyout with the Nets. Johnson received that buyout Thursday, reportedly giving up about $3MM in exchange for his release. The 34-year-old also apparently had serious interest in the Hawks, but instead it looks like he’s on his way to Miami, reportedly feeling as though he’d see a more significant role there than with other teams. Johnson would prefer living in Miami over other places, too, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork heard (Twitter link). The Cavs reportedly turned into long shots for him, and Skolnick hears the Thunder and Hawks, not the Cavs, were the teams that most appealed to Johnson aside from the Heat (Twitter link).
Johnson will supplement a Heat roster decimated by injuries and cost-cutting moves that have left them with only 10 healthy players. Conflicting reports surround the matter of whether the Heat are pressuring Chris Bosh to sit out the rest of the season because of renewed blood-clot issues, while Tyler Johnson is out until at least April and Beno Udrih at least May. Heat team president Pat Riley cited the team’s dwindling point guard corps Thursday when he left the door open a crack to the idea of paying the tax, but Johnson is a wing player. He’s nonetheless the jewel of the buyout market even though his scoring average has declined for four straight years. The seven-time All-Star posted 11.8 points in 33.9 minutes per game across 57 appearances with Brooklyn this season. He’s shot 37.1% on his 3-pointers this season, matching the rate for his career, and that figures to help Miami, which is 28th in 3-pointers made.
The Heat have eyed Johnson for weeks, if not longer, as Skolnick reported earlier this month that the Heat would have interest if Johnson became available on the buyout market.