ATLANTA, GA – APRIL 29: Joe Johnson #7 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts as he walks to the bench during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on April 29, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Has there ever been an NBA free agent contract more destined to fail than that of Joe Johnson’s?

During the wild summer of 2010, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire all hit free agency at the same time, it was Johnson who cashed in biggest, securing a six-year, $123.7 million contract from the Atlanta Hawks.

Only two years later, the Hawks gave up and traded Johnson to the Nets, who are now themselves moving on from the seven-time All-Star.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, ESPN reported the Nets and Johnson were negotiating a buyout to release the shooting guard from the final year of his contract. Waiving him means every other NBA team will have a chance to take on Johnson and his contract, but if no one bites, the Nets will be forced to buy out the remainder of his $24.9 million salary (second-highest in the league after Kobe Bryant) for this season.

Getting released before March 1 allows Johnson to sign with another team and be eligible for the playoffs. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, a number of contending teams are interested in Johnson, likely as a scorer off the bench.

Johnson is averaging only 11.8 points per game, his fewest in a season since 2003, while shooting only 40.6% from the field. For a seven-time All-Star, Johnson has had a pretty wacky career. He’s hasn’t been a key player on a great team since 2005, when he played fourth fiddle on a great Suns team. From there he went to Atlanta, where he stayed until basically right before the Hawks got good. And in Brooklyn he led a team that had big names (D-Will! KG! The Truth!) but little success to show for them.

But through all those fifth-place finishes, Johnson was never intensely criticized on a national level or branded a loser. It’s like he wasn’t quite good enough that anyone expected him to actually win anything. To the extent that Johnson is known for anything among casual NBA fans, it’s his crunch-time heroics.


As for the Nets, they’re a colossal mess, probably as poorly positioned for the future as any NBA team. Not only are they 15-42, second-worst in the East, their roster lacks anyone you can imagine making an All-Star game in the foreseeable future. And worst of all, they have no first round pick in 2016, only the Celtics (likely not-that-valuable) first-rounder in 2017 and no first-rounder again in 2018. So the Nets have no good young players and no real avenue to acquire good young players.

If anyone on the Nets wants to experience the playoffs anytime soon, he’ll have to ask Johnson to send him a postcard.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.