According to his agent, Joe Johnson accepted a six-year $119 million contract offer with the Atlanta Hawks. The deal is worth nearly $27 million more than any other team could offer.
"When the free agency period kicked in, Joe made a point of talking to the Hawks first. Their owners and new coach, Larry Drew, impressed Joe with their commitment to making the team championship-caliber. In turn, Joe felt equally committed to the Hawks, his teammates and the city of Atlanta," Johnson’s agent wrote to the Huffington Post.
Johnson was reportedly impressed with the offers that other teams presented to him, and could have forced a sign-and-trade deal if he wished to do so, but decided that “winning in Altanta would be more meaningful.”
The New York Knicks were the first team to meet with Johnson early Thursday morning, and made it known that he along with Amare Stoudemire were amongst their more desired free agent prospects. The Chicago Bulls also contacted Johnson about a possible deal, but did not meet with him when it became clear that he wanted to stay in Atlanta.
Initially, Johnson did not meet with the Hawks, and there was some speculation that he may want to head over and play in Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun New York offense.
The Knicks were considering Johnson as a crucial piece that could be used to lure the likes of a LeBron James or Dwyane Wade to New York. In fact, the team made Johnson their first priority above James and Wade because they felt they had a better chance of signing him than the aforementioned two superstar players.
"For his next act, Joe plans to actively recruit other top free agents to Atlanta, a place not unlike his hometown, where he feels comfortable and appreciated," his agent continued. "LeBron, you've already met with the front offices of six teams. How about considering the Hawks?"
Many were shocked that Johnson, who some would argue is not a franchise player, was able to command such a large contract. While clearly an All-Star caliber player and consistently considered amongst the best talents in the league, Johnson has shown a knack for disappearing in the postseason and being unable to carry the team deep into the playoffs.
Johnson has not yet issued a statement on returning to the Hawks.