Say it ain't so, Joe. According to reports, Joe Johnson has turned down the Atlanta Hawks offer of a contract extension believed to be for four years and $60 million. Johnson will be one of the marquee unrestricted free agents in the much heralded 2010 NBA free agent extravaganza starting on July 1st.
Listen, I think Johnson is one of the Top 20 players in the NBA and his all around basketball game makes him one of the best shooting guards. He is at a level just a notch below Kobe and D-Wade.
Any Hawks' fan that has really watched this team in the past two years and knows anything about basketball realizes that Johnson is their MVP. Even the notoriously fickle Jeff Van Gundy was touting Super Joe as a league wide MVP candidate when the Hawks were making a great run last December.
Hawks' fans have to be asking themselves, what does this mean for the 2009-2010 season. Here are five possible scenarios for Super Joe and the Hawks:
1. Joe flat out plays great all season and has his best season as a professional. Johnson clearly wants to test the open market. An extra year on a contract and $20 million more are great motivators. If Coach Mike Woodson plays him less minutes, Johnson could lead the Hawks back into the second round of the playoffs.
2. Mike Bibby gets injured, Jamal Crawford shoots a lot, and Jeff Teague disappears on Woodson's bench. Johnson has to play a league high 40.2 minutes per game and he ages about seven years. Hawks fall back to a .500 team. LeBron James still wants Johnson as his sidekick in Cleveland, but the Cavs only pay Joe $39 million over three years. Johnson takes the deal just to get out of town.
3. The Hawks struggle before the All-Star break. Woodson looks like he is on his way out. Josh Smith under achieves. Horford still cannot make a clutch post move and score. General Manager Rick Sund starts to hear the whispers from his days in Seattle...trade Joe at the trading deadline. Get value for him before its too late. Depending on the deal this could be a good or bad scenario.
4. The NBA financial situation keeps getting worse. The Hawks play inconsistently all year, but make the playoffs before getting upset by the resurgent Washington Wizards. Johnson hits the open market, but there are no takers in the first week and he panics (I doubt it knowing this guy's personality and the fact that he has already made $70 million in the past five years). Johnson re-signs with the Hawks at the extension numbers offered this fall.
5. Hawks totally implode this year and do not make the playoffs. The core group of guys that Sund has put together has to be blown up somehow. Woodson is fired or just let his contract expire. Johnson is let go. J-Smoove is dealt to Golden State for Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson. The Hawks hire Donnie Nelson, Jr. and the 2010 Hawks become Golden State 2008.
Sad. Or Johnson leaves and the Hawks clear some cap space and sign D-Wade. We can only dream.