Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson, Al Jefferson To Play In BIG3

Ice Cube’s three-on-three BIG3 league has secured a couple of its biggest names yet, as the league announced (via Twitter) that Joe Johnson and Al Jefferson signed on to play in the BIG3 for the 2019 season.

Johnson, a seven-time All-Star, played in the NBA last season for the Jazz and Rockets, appearing in a total of 55 games. Although he didn’t catch on with a new NBA club this season, the 37-year-old also hasn’t announced his retirement as a player, so it’s possible he’ll still attempt a comeback in 2019/20 after spending the summer playing BIG3 ball.

In 17 NBA seasons, Johnson has averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.9 APG with a .441/.371/.802 shooting line. He has appeared in a total of 1,276 regular season games for Atlanta, Brooklyn, Phoenix, Utah, Boston, Miami, and Houston, plus 120 postseason contests for those same teams (minus the Celtics).

As for Jefferson, the 34-year-old big man played in China this season after spending the previous 14 seasons with the Celtics, Timberwolves, Jazz, Hornets, and Pacers. His NBA averages stand at 15.7 PPG and 8.4 RPG in 915 career regular season games, and he was named to the All-NBA Third Team in 2014. Like Johnson, he hasn’t indicated that he plans to retire as an NBA player, so a comeback next season remains a possibility.

While Johnson and Jefferson are two of the most noteworthy name added to the BIG3’s roster this summer, they’re far from the only former NBA players to join the league’s ranks. The BIG3 has also added Gilbert Arenas, Lamar Odom, Daniel Gibson, C.J. Watson, Charlie Bell, Stromile Swift, and many others to its player pool during the offseason.

Southeast Rumors: Waiters, Dedmon, Pope, Satoransky

Heat shooting guard Dion Waiters may not be ready for the beginning of the regular season, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Teammate Briante Weber told Jackson that Waiters, who underwent ankle surgery in January, has not participated in any contact work or pickup games with his teammates. With Dwyane Wade continuing to waffle on whether he’ll re-sign with the team, Miami could pursue other free agent options, Jackson adds, with Jamal Crawford, Mario Chalmers and Joe Johnson among a pool of potential targets.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon, who suffered an avulsion fracture in his left ankle last week, has shed his walking boot, according to a team press release. He will now participate in weight-bearing rehabilitation and then be re-evaluated in two weeks. Dedmon, who will make $7.2MM this season, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • The Magic are close to hiring Bill Pope as their director of pro personnel, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets. Pope currently holds a similar position with the Kings.
  • Tomas Satoransky will enter camp as the Wizards’ backup point guard but there’s no guarantee he’ll remain in the rotation, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes in a player profile. Satoransky had trouble holding onto that spot last season and newcomer Austin Rivers and Troy Brown Jr. can play the point behind John Wall if needed. There’s also more depth at the wing, reducing the chances of Satoransky seeing action at those positions, Hughes adds.

Rockets Notes: Anderson, J. Johnson, D’Antoni, Anthony

After re-signing Clint Capela, the Rockets are doing more than waiting for the inevitable addition of Carmelo Anthony, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. In comments relayed by Houston-based digital journalist Ben DuBose, Windhorst says the Rockets remain “active in the trade market” and are talking to several teams about deals to improve their defense.

After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, Houston suffered a pair of serious hits in free agency when Trevor Ariza signed with the Suns and Luc Mbah a Moute decided to rejoin the Clippers. Both were tall, rangy wing defenders who enabled the Rockets to match up with the Warriors’ collection of perimeter scorers. Houston found one replacement by signing former Piston James Ennis and is apparently seeking more.

Windhorst indicated that the Rockets are willing to absorb long-term salary in order to find a taker for Ryan Anderson, who is owed nearly $41.7MM over the next two seasons.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • Joe Johnson was a forgotten man for the Rockets in the playoffs, but he isn’t ready to end his NBA career, writes Kelly Iko of RocketsWire. The 37-year-old free agent hopes to play at least one more year and is already preparing for the coming season, Iko adds. Johnson, a 17-year veteran, signed with the Rockets in February after reaching a buyout deal with the Kings shortly after they acquired him from the Jazz. He played in 23 games for Houston, but was barely used in the postseason. The Rockets may not have room to bring Johnson back, with 14 players under contract and Anthony expected to join the team once his buyout with the Hawks is complete.
  • Coach Mike D’Antoni is dismissing critics who believe the Rockets will take a step back because of their free agent losses, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “You hate to lose Trevor and you hate to lose Luc,” D’Antoni said. “It happens. That’s the business part of it and we’ll miss them. But at the same time, it gives opportunities to other guys. … We’re moving along. It’s changed but we’re trying to make it for the best.”
  • Anthony will be most effective in Houston as a better version of Anderson, states TNT’s David Aldridge in an NBA.com roundtable on the subject. With Ariza and Mbah a Moute gone, Aldridge advises the Rockets to use Anthony as a starter to maximize his offense and provide another threat from 3-point range.

Joe Johnson Intends To Continue Playing Career

Joe Johnson‘s 17th NBA season came to an end on Monday night, and his current contract will expire in a little over a month. However, Johnson told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he has no doubts about wanting to continue his playing career next season.

“Hell yeah, I want to keep rolling,” Johnson said. “I’m not even thinking about [retiring].”

Johnson, who turns 37 next month, has seen his role and production decline in recent years. He established new career lows in several categories this year, averaging 6.8 PPG in 55 games (21.9 MPG) with the Jazz and Rockets. While Johnson is still capable of making the occasional big shot, his .276 3PT% was the worst mark of his career, and his .406 FG% was well below his career rate.

Still, having already earned over $200MM in his NBA career, Johnson likely won’t be seeking more than a minimum salary deal this summer, and his locker-room leadership should earn him a spot on a 15-man roster, so it will be a matter of finding the right fit. The veteran forward tells MacMahon that he’d have interest in re-signing with the Rockets or perhaps joining another team capable of vying for a title.

“I would love to have a chance to win a ring,” Johnson said. “I thought we had a great opportunity, man. It slipped away from us. I want to go to a contender. I don’t want to just be out here playing just to be playing.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Houston Rockets

The Rockets committed to a certain title contention window when they traded half of their roster in exchange for Chris Paul. The deal has paid dividends considering that the addition of the future Hall of Famer has taken the franchise from solid Western Conference team in a world dominated by the Warriors to a legitimate championship contender.

For that reason, the Rockets will head into the summer with one primary goal: bringing Paul back. If, or perhaps when, that happens, the club will go about filling out the rest of the roster, likely retaining several of the rest of their pending free agents and filling out the lineup with journeymen on minimum deals.

Trevor Ariza, 33, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $32MM deal in 2014
There are few intangibles guys better suited to complement the current Rockets core than Ariza but that doesn’t mean general manager Daryl Morey will overextend the franchise to keep him on-board. Fortunately, he may not have to. While Ariza has serious value as the starting small forward on a very competitive roster, he’s not the type of asset that rebuilding teams would pursue given his age and the price tag may be too steep for another contender, desperate to plug him in alongside their current core. Unless a lottery team foolishly dumps a pile of money on his doorstep, Ariza will be back in Houston in the $10MM range for as long as the club’s title contention window is open.

Tarik Black, 26, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2017
Black has shown flashes of promise in spot minutes over the course of his four-year career but he’s not the intriguing bargain bin scratch ticket he used to be. He’s not a bad option for the cash-strapped Rockets if they can bring him back for the minimum but if there’s any other organization desperate enough to offer more than that, it would make sense to let him walk.

Clint Capela, 24, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6MM deal in 2014
After four years as one of the most cost effective game changers in the NBA, Capela is going to get paid as a restricted free agent. Capela is young, has a proven track record of playing a major role for a serious contender and hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’d be capable of in starter’s minutes. It would surprise me if Capela doesn’t land a max offer sheet as a restricted free agent this summer and Houston has no choice but to match it if they want to continue being the only team with a semi-realistic chance of unseating the Warriors.

Gerald Green, 32, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2017
Green went from being practically out of basketball to putting forth his most inspired NBA season in years. In 2017/18, Green went unsigned until December. I anticipate that the Houston native will be back on board with the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum as soon as the dust settles on the rest of the team’s summer plans.

Joe Johnson, 37, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Rockets took a flyer on Johnson after he was bought out of the albatross deal he signed with the Jazz in 2016 but never managed to break into the club’s admittedly stacked rotation. It would make zero sense for any team to pay more than the veteran’s minimum for the greybeard after three years of team changes and pedestrian production.

Luc Mbah a Moute, 31, SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
The Rockets have done a fine job of surrounding their world-class skill players with defensive-minded role players. Landing Mbah a Moute for the minimum last summer was an incredibly valuable move. It’s hard to imagine that Mbah a Moute would sign for that cheap again this season seeing as he could realistically double or even triple that amount without breaking the bank for another contender. The Rockets would be happy to bring him back but may not be able to afford both he and Ariza.

Chris Paul, 33, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $107MM deal in 2013
It wasn’t long ago that Paul seemed destined to sign a super max contract with the Clippers and retire a franchise legend. Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and we’re living in an entirely different reality. Paul performed brilliantly during his first season with the Rockets and his impact on the legitimate title contender is undisputed. That said, the franchise isn’t automatically compelled to offer a max money, four-year deal that would terminate when Paul is 37 years old. In a perfect world, the Rockets would sign him to a two- or three-year deal instead of going full-term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Johnson, Gasol

Kawhi Leonard‘s health has cast doubt on him returning this season, and his future with the Jordan Brand is also unclear, sources tell ESPN’s Michael C. Wright and Ramona Shelburne. Leonard and Nike were reportedly “very close” to a four-year, $20MM extension but his representatives felt the offer was not reflective of his recent success and standing within the league.

Leonard, 26, has racked up droves of impressive accolades during his seven-year NBA career. He is a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-Star, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, and part of the Spurs‘ 2014 championship team. Leonard pockets south of $500K annually on his current deal and his representatives want a deal that reflects the aforementioned accomplishments.

Leonard’s current agreement expires on October 1, but Nike has the option of matching any deal he receives from another brand. Injuries have limited Leonard to just nine games this season but there is optimism he may return later this month.

Check out other Southwest Division notes below:

  • Joe Johnson came to the Rockets as a veteran who can score and provide leadership as the team prepares for the postseason. Injuries have allowed Johnson to see more minutes and he is thrilled to show off his versatility, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. “As someone who came into the league as a one, two and three, playing the four, I can do things some guys are not as comfortable with,” Johnson said. “We just look to make plays. That’s what it’s about.”
  • Marc Gasol shares an idealist and pure take on the NBA and recent tanking debate — while the Grizzlies are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, Chris Herrington of the Commercial Appeal relays. “Winning is what this is about. It’s not about somebody playing well, or getting your reps, or developing players. We’ve got a league for that. … This is the NBA, not the D League,” Gasol said.
  • Speaking of the Grizzlies’ losing streak, the team, sporting an 18-44 record, is playing its hardest, but each loss is taking its toll, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes. “You’ve got a bunch of guys who are committed to doing the right thing. And there’s only so many moral victories that you can have,” Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “At the end of the day, this is results based but it hurts. And it hurts them because they’re giving so much. They’re competing so hard. You can’t tell me a guy that didn’t leave it all out there tonight. And circumstances are what they are. But like I said, you hurt for these guys. And you want them to be rewarded with a ‘W.’”

Texas Notes: Nowitzki, Cuban, Parker, J. Johnson

The workplace misconduct scandal surrounding the Mavericks hasn’t changed Dirk Nowitzki‘s plans to play another season, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. As the organization prepares for an independent investigation, Nowitzki said Friday that he still expects to return for a 21st season.

“I signed up last summer for two years,” he told reporters. “I would love to play next year again. But we’ll kind of see how the rest of the season plays out and how I feel in the summer. But as of now, I want to play again next year. I feel OK. I only missed one game. So the body is holding up OK. I only missed one game and that one I could have played, too. Obviously, I didn’t have any major, major issues.” 

There’s more new tonight out of Texas:

  • Of the possible penalties facing owner Mark Cuban in the wake of the workplace scandal, the NBA isn’t likely to take away the franchise, Sefko adds. That happened to Donald Sterling, who was forced to sell the Clippers in 2014 after several of his racially charged statements became public. Sefko believes it’s more likely Cuban will be suspended or draft picks will be forfeited.
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich tells Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News that he likes the way veteran point guard Tony Parker has adapted to a reserve role since Dejounte Murray was named the starter last month. Now 35 and in the final year of his contract, Parker has adopted a new routine to keep him ready to come off the bench. “Tony has handled it fantastically well,” Popovich said. “He’s been a really mature, high-character guy. He understands what’s best for a basketball team.”
  • Joe Johnson will continue to get playing time in a crowded Rockets rotation, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Johnson logged 22 minutes Friday night in his second game since joining the team and is making a quick impression. “Joe Johnson played really well,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “He’s getting more comfortable, especially in the second half. I’ve known Joe forever and he’s a machine. He just keeps playing, doesn’t get tired, he’s strong, and just really understands his game. If you watch it, he’s really good.” The addition of Johnson may mean a lighter workload for Trevor Ariza, Feigen adds in a separate story. Ariza, who had been averaging 34.8 minutes per night, returned to the lineup Friday after missing nine games with a strained hamstring.

Raptors Notes: Roster, Buyout Targets, Carter

With the NBA schedule set to resume following the All-Star break, the Raptors currently hold the No. 1 spot in the East and this year’s squad looks capable of setting a new franchise record for wins in a regular season. As head coach Dwane Casey tells Shaun Powell of NBA.com, the Raptors have built their roster without luring any big names to Toronto.

“It’s not like we’ve gone outside and got a superstar free agent,” Casey said. “We’ve done it organically by growing our young players and the rewarding part was people questioning what we were trying to do. We’re not there yet. We haven’t arrived. But we’ve done it the traditional way. A lot of guys around the league are partnering up, adding superstars, superstars and superstars. We’ve developed players, starting with DeMar [DeRozan].”

During the past couple postseasons, the Raptors’ lack of starpower has been an issue, with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cavaliers ending the club’s season in back-to-back years. While we wait to see if the Raps can get over the hump this spring, let’s round up a few more notes out of Toronto…

  • Within a piece on the Raptors storylines to watch down the stretch, Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca discusses possible buyout targets for the club, noting that Toronto didn’t have interest in Joe Johnson or Brandan Wright, who landed with the Rockets.
  • The Raps are keeping an eye out for veteran wing insurance, since C.J. Miles and OG Anunoby have both battled minor injuries, according to Lewenberg, who noted earlier this week that Arron Afflalo may be a target for Toronto. Lewenberg adds that stretch fours like Channing Frye and Ersan Ilyasova may also be nice fits, but they probably won’t receive buyouts, and would be long shots to choose Toronto even if they do reach free agency.
  • After an early-February report indicated that the Raptors had interest in Vince Carter, Lewenberg recently suggested that idea is on hold for now. He goes into more detail in his latest article, writing that the club has decided “this is not the right time” for a Carter reunion. The organization doesn’t want the media coverage of such a signing to overshadow the accomplishments of this year’s squad, Lewenberg explains. The Raps haven’t ruled out the idea of an eventual reunion, but it’s “on the back burner for now,” tweets Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca.
  • Earlier this week, we asked whether the Raptors will hold onto the No. 1 seed in the East.

Texas Notes: Harden, D’Antoni, Aldridge, Nowitzki

All-star guard James Harden believes the Rockets boosted their chances to win a title by adding free agents Joe Johnson and Brandan Wright, relays Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. Both signed with Houston this week after reaching buyout agreements, adding depth to a roster that has the league’s best record at the break.

“Those are experienced vets who both have playoff experience,” Harden said. “And we all want to win – that’s what everyone on this roster has in common. We have a roster full of guys who are hungry and ready to compete at a high level. We have really good depth now. We have a roster of guys, from top to bottom, who can step in and really get the job done. That’s exciting, and it also means everyone’s minutes should go down, but our productivity [as a whole] should go up.”

He also addressed the compatibility concerns that were raised after the trade for Chris Paul last summer. Harden said he and Paul both adopted a team-first attitude that made blending their talents an easy transition.

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • After a lifetime in basketball, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni has found the perfect team to fit his style, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. D’Antoni, an All-Star coach for the second time in his career, was happy as associate head coach in Philadelphia until Rockets owner Leslie Alexander offered him a job in the summer of 2016. Houston has given D’Antoni a roster filled with shooters to complement his philosophy on offense. “Some people accused me of being stubborn all those years I didn’t change,” he said. “I didn’t think I was being stubborn. I thought that was the way to do it. Why should I change if I know it’s the right thing to do?”
  • Returning to the All-Star Game after a one-year absence, LaMarcus Aldridge no longer feels out of place in San Antonio, according to Tom Orborne of The San Antonio Express-News. An offseason trade request led to a heart-to-heart talk with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and sparked a resurgence in Aldridge, who has increased his scoring average by five points per game and is topping 20 PPG for the first time since leaving Portland. “The Spurs have kind of learned who I am as a person and have let me be me,” Aldridge said. “They had Tim [Duncan], who was an introvert, kind of a private person, so now they understand me better.”
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he laughs any time another team brings up Dirk Nowitzki in a trade proposal, relays Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report. Nowitzki adds that Kobe Bryant once tried to convince him to sign with the Lakers, but he never seriously considered leaving Dallas.

Rockets Sign Joe Johnson

The Rockets have officially signed veteran forward Joe Johnson, the team announced today in a press release. In a corresponding transaction, the club waived Troy Williams, a move that appeared to be the subject of some debate in Houston’s front office.

There were reports prior to the trade deadline that Johnson, who was in the final season of a two-year contract, wanted out of Utah, and the Jazz accommodated that desire, sending him to the Kings in a deadline-day deal. Shortly after he landed with Sacramento, Johnson negotiated a buyout, reportedly agreeing to surrender $1MM of his $10.5MM salary.

The veteran will earn a little less than that in Houston, signing a minimum salary deal that will pay him about $750K, with the Rockets taking on a $474K cap hit. However, Johnson’s new team should give him a legit chance to contend for a title.

Johnson struggled this year in Utah, averaging a career-worst 7.3 PPG to go along with 3.3 RPG and a shooting line of .420/.274/.833. Still, his career résumé and his extensive postseason experience made him an intriguing low-cost target for playoff teams.

Johnson is expected to be active on Wednesday night against the Kings, technically his previous team. Johnson seems unlikely to be a difference-maker in that game, so Houston could have waited until after the All-Star break to finalize his deal, but that would have cost him over $100K in salary. Considering the Warriors, Celtics, and Thunder were also believed to be in the running for Johnson, the Rockets were likely happy to guarantee the 36-year-old that extra money by getting their deal done right away.