Might Nets be willing to play Trader Joe?
Johnson Mentioned in Trade Rumor as Deadline Approaches
When the Brooklyn Nets traded for Joe Johnson three summers ago, picking up the sharpshooter’s four-year, $90 million contract from Atlanta in the process, they felt very strongly that they had formed the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NBA.
Two and a half seasons into Johnson’s tenure here in Downtown Brooklyn, there are rumblings that “Isolation Joe” is being sought after by the Detroit Pistons, one of several teams the Nets are currently competing against for the final two playoff spots in the East.
According to a report Tuesday on ESPNNewYork.com, Detroit is offering point guard Brandon Jennings, who is out for the remainder of the season while recovering from an Achilles injury, and a few expiring contracts for Johnson’s services.
With Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline fast approaching, Brooklyn general manager Billy King has to decide very quickly if vying for a playoff spot over the remaining 30 games supercedes trading away the $48 million-plus left on Johnson’s contract.
The Nets, who are 10 games below .500 but just one game behind both Miami and Charlotte for those coveted postseason positions, have received solid contributions and much more than a handful of big shots from Johnson, who is averaging 15.5 points per game this season.
In fact, if $98 million point guard Deron Williams had remained healthy and played even close to the value of his contract over the past two-plus seasons, neither the Nets nor the NBA rumor mill would be buzzing with talk of Johnson’s potential departure.
But Williams’ struggles with a pair of bad ankles and his at-times waning confidence have left Johnson to carry the bulk of the load in the Brooklyn backcourt.
And he has done so in fine fashion, earning All-Star honors as the Nets’ lone representative last season and fitting in nicely with a revolving door of backcourt mates and head coaches.
To put it plainly, Joe Johnson has been the most consistent and outstanding Net since the franchise’s relocation here beginning with the 2012-13 campaign.
That’s what makes him Brooklyn’s most attractive commodity, both on the court and in potential trade talks.
Brook Lopez, who has spent the better part of two of the previous three seasons out of action with foot and ankle injuries, has also been dangled as trade bait.
As has Williams, whose putrid performance on the hardwood of late and bloated contract have made him very tough for King to deal.
That leaves Johnson, whom the Pistons doubtlessly covet as a player that can push them into the postseason over the next two months.
Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins intimated just before the All-Star break that he didn’t think the Nets would be making any splash moves prior to Thursday’s deadline.
He felt confident that this group could, and would compete for the playoffs, and that Johnson, Lopez and Williams could all still play key roles in attaining that goal.
In the next 24 hours, we’ll find out whether that’s what Hollins thought or simply hoped as the 2014-15 season starts up again for Brooklyn on Friday night in Los Angeles, either with Johnson or without him.
Nothing But Net: Johnson’s arrival from Atlanta also cost the Nets their first-round pick in next year’s draft. … Mason Plumlee wasn’t able to win Saturday night’s All-Star Slam Dunk contest at the Barclays Center, but fellow Net Bojan Bodganovic had a strong performance in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge at the state-of-the-art arena. Playing for the World Team, Bogdanovic poured in 16 points to help his unit to a 121-112 triumph over Plumlee and the U.S. squad. … After visiting the Lakers on Friday night, the Nets will head to Denver, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas in the completion of a season-high eight-game road trip that began with three straight losses in Washington, Milwaukee and Memphis, respectively.
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