1:40pm: The Heat expect they’ll sign Johnson this weekend, sources tell Zach Lowe of ESPN.com (Twitter link). He clears waivers Saturday. So, it appears Miami is poised to cross back into tax territory.
1:25pm: Miami is “far and away the most likely” destination for Johnson, but he’s yet to make up his mind, a league source said to Zagoria (Twitter link).
12:02pm: The Cavaliers have become long shots for Johnson, USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt hears (Twitter link).
FRIDAY, 11:56am: Miami has pulled into the lead for Johnson, reports Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link), as the longtime starter believes he’d see a more significant role with the Heat than with others, ESPN’s Chris Broussard says (Twitter link). Heat president Pat Riley expressed at least some level of openness Thursday to re-entering tax territory, though he spoke specifically about the team’s lack of point guards.
THURSDAY, 4:20pm: The Cavaliers are confident that they’re the favorites to land Joe Johnson now that he’s worked a buyout with the Nets, but the Hawks, in whom Johnson also reportedly holds interest, plan a concerted effort to lure him back to Atlanta, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com (All Twitter links). The Heat are also among the teams he’s strongly considering, with the Celtics and Thunder close behind the trio of Cleveland, Atlanta and Miami, sources tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops (Twitter link). Johnson appears likely to wait a couple of days before making a decision, Stein adds. He’ll be on waivers until Saturday at 4:00pm Central time, at which point he’ll most assuredly become a free agent, since no team has the cap room or an exception large enough to claim his salary of almost $24.895MM. Johnson will give back approximately $3MM of that figure as part of the buyout deal once he clears waivers, Nets GM Sean Marks said today in an appearance on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York radio, notes Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link).
Johnson was reportedly planning to sign with the Cavs, but the Hawks have a financial edge, since Atlanta can offer a prorated portion of the room exception now worth about $2MM. Cleveland is limited to the prorated minimum salary, which would give Johnson approximately $400K. The cost of signing Johnson would nonetheless be greater to the Cavs than it would be to the Hawks because of Cleveland’s position as a luxury tax team. The 15th-year veteran would represent an investment of between $1.2MM and $1.3MM in combined salary and taxes for the Cavs.
Miami is in a tough position, since the Heat would slip over the tax line if they signed Johnson to any more than the minimum salary at any time before March 6th. The Heat would pay repeat-offender tax penalties of at least $2.50 for every dollar they’re over the tax line on the final day of the regular season. The Celtics, Rockets, Thunder and Raptors are all among those pursuing Johnson, according to Stein, and the Thunder have the most to give Johnson with about $2.4MM remaining on their prorated taxpayer’s mid-level exception.
The Nets clearly aren’t in the picture for Johnson at this point, but he wouldn’t dismiss the idea of re-signing with them in the summer, as he said before the buyout, and Marks didn’t rule out the possibility as he spoke on the radio today, Mazzeo tweets. “You never know what’s going to happen,” Marks said. Still, Johnson has also said he places a premium on winning, a remark that’s an auspicious sign for the Cavs in their competition with the Hawks and Heat and casts doubt on the idea of a summer reunion with Brooklyn.