May 16, 2010, 11:38 AM EDT
You just knew somebody was going to make the mistake this summer of offering Joe Johnson a max deal that extends too long at five years.
Didn’t expect it to be the Hawks, though.
That is what the New York Daily News is reporting the Hawks will do, adding that they want a new coach to keep Johnson’s regular season minutes down. Because that was the problem, the reason they got swept, not the Magic’s defense. Or overall superior talent level. Right. Sure it was.
Dwane Casey is the favorite to succeed Woodson, who did not endear himself to management by playing Joe Johnson extended minutes this season. Johnson had a nightmare series against the Magic and management thinks that he got worn down vs. Orlando. Despite averaging only 12.8 ppg on 29.8% shooting – far below his season averages (21 ppg on 46%) – that’s not going to stop the Hawks from offering their top player a maximum-salary contract. They’re not about to let him walk, even if they’ll be overpaying
Because these rumors come from the Daily News, please sprinkle liberally with salt.
If it is true, then Hawks management is about to blow it. Not the hiring Dwane Casey part — that is smart and some team like the Hawks or the Clippers is going to make a good hire there.
But Johnson is not a max player. Nobody thinks he is or plans to offer the max — he is a good number two guy, a top flight wing player who will get you points when played with another guy who can draw defenders and set him up. Which is what Nash did for him in Phoenix (they had Amare Stoudemire, too). For the Hawks, they relied too much on Johnson to be the creator, not the finisher.
A new coach, a more defensive focus to create turnovers and get Atlanta out and running more, plus a point guard that could run the break will go a long way to making the Hawks better. Johnson could certainly be a part of that. But at max money? That is too steep a price to pay, and if the deal is the five or six years the Hawks will regret the last couple years of that.
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