Fear Takes Over: Atlanta Hawks Ink Joe Johnson To Six-Year $119 Million Deal

Steve SmithSenior Writer IJuly 1, 2010

MILWAUKEE - APRIL 30: Joe Johnson #2 of the Atlanta Hawks moves against John Salmons #15 of the Milwaukee Bucks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at the Bradley Center on April 30, 2010 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Hawks defeated the Bucks 83-69. 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 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Everyone knew the 2010 free agent season was going to be a frenzied one. Hell, it’s one of the most lauded spectacles we’ve seen in our lifetimes. With the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, and numerous others up for grabs, it’s the kind of event NBA general managers and fans alike salivate about; and have been for years.

Despite all that, no one probably realized just how frenzied it would (and will) get.

The recently reported contract offer by the Atlanta Hawks to Joe Johnson should give people a real good clue. Fear has taken hold.

It’s being reported that Atlanta has offered the All-Star guard a maximum contract for six years at $119 million. This is not LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh we’re talking about here—it’s Joe Johnson; and he just got offered $119 million over six seasons.

This isn’t just ridiculous, it’s pathetic. The Atlanta Hawks' management should be so ashamed of themselves over this idiocy, they should all resign. They’ve effectively just guaranteed that their franchise will be mediocre for more than half of the next decade.

Hawks fans will see their beloved squad exit the playoffs in the first or second round annually because of this nonsense.

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Don’t get me wrong, Johnson is a very good wing player. However, he’s nowhere near being a superstar. On a team with many of the other hot commodities on the free agent market this year, he would be the second option (at best).

This is a guy who is nearly 30 years old, averaged about 21 points a game this past season, playing 38 minutes a game. You think Kobe Bryant is a ball hog? You think LeBron James likes to control the rock most of the time? Hell, Joe Johnson has the ball in his hands nearly 60-65 percent of every Hawk possession.

He’s the epitome of a ball hog, which has allowed him to inflate his numbers to mediocrity. He averaged 4.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists this past season because he controls the ball so much. And those numbers would be decent if you didn’t realize how often he has the ball. The more telling number? He only went to the line three and a half times a game.

Unlike Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant, who all control the ball for their teams quite a bit, Johnson isn’t capable of getting to the free-throw line enough to warrant the salary numbers he’s getting. Instead, he relies on his jump shot (which can be lethal at times). And his team will pay for that in the playoffs, as they did this past season when he averaged only 11.8 points per game on a paltry 29.5 percent shooting in the second round loss the Hawks suffered.

Some writers are claiming this is the worst free agent contract they’ve ever seen. I’m not gonna go that far, as I’ve seen some doozies, including Gilbert Arenas’ deal just a couple of years ago, and the deal handed to Eddie Curry. However, it definitely is up there, and is a mark of just how scared the Hawks' management must have been that they wouldn’t be able to attract a player of comparable talent to Atlanta for far less money if Johnson refused a lower offer.

Simply put, this deal handcuffs the Hawks, and assures their fans that they won’t be seeing a title in the near future. If all they want is a great show occasionally with Johnson hoisting up threes, they’ll get it. If they wanted a championship parade, they’ll likely have to move further South to Miami.

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