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2010 NBA Free Agency Breaking News: Joe Johnson Offered Max Deal From Hawks

John Boller@jboll0327Correspondent IJuly 1, 2010

ATLANTA - MAY 10:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 10, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Joe Johnson and his agent Arn Tellem are all smiles today. Just a few hours into the beginning of the free agent period, the Atlanta Hawks have shown just how much they want Johnson to remain the team’s franchise player for years to come.

The Atlanta Hawks general manager Rick Sund came to Los Angeles on a mission and has thrown a six-year, $119 million contract in Johnson’s lap, daring him to walk away from a deal that will pay him about $20 million a year.

Johnson, 29, is coming off a peak season for the Hawks in which the All-Star shooting guard averaged over 21 points and combined for 9.5 rebounds/assists per game last year, guiding the Hawks to 53 wins and a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

While the regular season was good for Johnson and the Hawks, it was a quick and painful postseason for the two, causing many to wonder if Johnson was worthy of receiving a max contract.

Fortunately for Johnson, the Hawks front office doesn’t care too much for public opinion, and clearly feel that Johnson is still the guy that will take Atlanta to the “next level”.

To accomplish that, he will have to improve on his performance during the 2010 playoffs; 11.8 points per game on 29.5 percent shooting from the floor.

The contract will pay Johnson almost $20 million a year until the year 2016.

Johnson has said that he will take a couple of days before giving the Hawks his decision. Johnson is one of the most sought-after free agents after the likes of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. The New York Knicks have Johnson on their radar. Their head coach and his former coach from Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni, and their GM Donnie Walsh have also met with Johnson in LA.

The Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, and Chicago Bulls also have shown interest in Johnson. Only the Bulls and Knicks have enough cap space to offer Johnson a max deal without the use of a sign-and-trade. However, his guarantee for a max contract really lies with just Atlanta.

The Bulls and Knicks are also seeking the services of the elite free agents mentioned above; meaning Johnson would not receive a max deal from Chicago or New York if they land James, Bosh, or Wade.

He may not have excelled in the playoffs, but Johnson has the spotlight and it will be interesting to see if he walks away from $20 million a year.

There is also still a chance that the Hawks and a team could work out a sign-and-trade deal that would still leave Johnson with a max contract.

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