Joe Johnson says he’ll “sacrifice” to play with LeBron in NYC

Joe Johnson was asked about his free agent plans after the Hawks’ game against the Knicks, and here’s what he had to say

The inquisition of Joe Johnson began at about 6:20 p.m. ET, lasted approximately 10 minutes and yielded the following nugget:

If a certain someone, like maybe this certain guy in Cleveland, accepted a max offer from the Knicks and wanted Johnson as a sidekick, Johnson would be willing to sign for less than the maximum.

“I’ll sacrifice,” Johnson said.

Those words will carry some weight as we head toward July 1, 2010, because there aren’t a whole lot of max-level free agents out there who are willing to go on the record saying they’ll sacrifice money if it translates into success on the court.

But Johnson went ahead and said it Monday, and given the fact that he turned down a five-year max contract extension from the Atlanta Hawks last summer, that statement ranks as an eyebrow-raiser.

Chris Sheridan goes on to speculate about what the Knicks might do if Plan A (LeBron) and Plan B (D-Wade) both fail. How about a Bosh/Johnson or a Stoudemire/Johnson combo in NYC?

While LeBron, Wade and Bosh are all playing coy about their free agency plans, Johnson is refreshingly honest about all the possibilities. Considering that he’s playing for one of the top teams in the East, it’s an interesting way to go.

A LeBron/JJ combo in New York probably isn’t going to happen. I have a feeling that LeBron will only go to the Knicks if he knows he’s going to play with Wade or Bosh. Usually championships are built around one excellent perimeter player and one excellent big man — think Kobe-Shaq, Parker-Duncan, Wade-Shaq — but Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did make the 2/3 combo work very well in Chicago, though MJ made a living in the post. LeBron doesn’t like to play with his back to the basket.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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Great Quotes: LeBron James

“I think, honestly, this free-agent talk is getting old. It’s getting old and I think it’s probably the last time I answer anymore free-agent questions until the offseason.”

LeBron James, via

LeBron to…Minnesota?!?

John Hollinger writes in his latest PER Diem (Insider subscription required) that LeBron’s best bet for long term success may not be in Cleveland…or New York…or New Jersey/Brooklyn…

And it’s especially worth noting that if the Cavs are back in the 45-50 win range this season, King James might be a much more portable commodity this coming summer. If he’s looking at a Cleveland lineup with one majestically talented player and several spare parts, one would think the comparison to such arrangements in New York or New Jersey wouldn’t be dramatically different.

But those aren’t close to being the most palatable changes of uniform available. For instance, it bears mentioning that joining the Chicago squad LeBron’s team lost to Thursday night would be dramatically different. With a young star point guard, quality big men and lots of secondary help, the Bulls — who could get as much as $20 million under the cap if John Salmons opts out of his contract, conveniently opening a spot in the lineup for LeBron at the same time — would offer a more clear opportunity for long-term success.

Let me throw out an even crazier proposition — Minnesota. The Wolves will have the cap space to make a run at LeBron, depending on a few variables — or at the very least can get there fairly easily if they know there’s a chance for a player of this caliber. (Declining an option on Ryan Gomes, for instance, is done much more easily if it allows you to replace him with the best player in the league.)

Minnesota is generally thought of as one of the NBA’s least-desirable relocation options, but let’s consider it from a winning perspective. Who would you rather play with for the next five years: Al Jefferson or Anderson Varejao? Kevin Love or Ilgauskas? Ricky Rubio or Mo Williams? Jonny Flynn or West? Ramon Sessions or Daniel Gibson? Next year’s fourth pick or next year’s 24th? It’s obvious, isn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong — the T-Wolves would be a good fit for LeBron, but he’d be a pretty good fit anywhere. I just don’t see him taking his show from one cold, small-market Midwestern city to another cold, small-market Midwestern city. If he doesn’t stay in Cleveland, then there seem to be three real options:

1. Brooklyn Nets
With Devin Harris and Brook Lopez locked up for the next few years, the Nets have two All-Star caliber players already on the roster at two of the toughest positions to fill — point guard and center. Is the penetrating Harris the perfect fit alongside LeBron? Not necessarily, but if the Nets can find a sharpshooting off guard (Courtney Lee?) and face up power forward (a la Rashard Lewis), the Nets would really be in business. Plus, the move to Brooklyn would take away the stigma of playing in New Jersey.

2. Chicago Bulls
It would break the city of Cleveland’s heart if LeBron fled to the Windy City. New York or Brooklyn? Cleveland fans wouldn’t like it, but they’d understand. But if LeBron heads to Chicago, home of the team that stepped on the Cavs’ throats so many times during the Jordan era, the city might explode. From a pure basketball point of view, it’s a nice fit. They already have Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and maybe Tyrus Thomas. Chicago is also a threat to pry Dwyane Wade out of Miami.

3. New York Knicks
This is more about MSG and the spotlight than who the Knicks have on the roster. Playing in Mike D’Antoni’s system would be nice, and if the Knicks can unload either Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries, they’d have enough cap space to sign another free agent to max deal. This might be a case of the Knicks having to coax Chris Bosh out of Toronto or Amare Stoudemire out of Phoenix before being able to convince LeBron to sign on the dotted line.

We’re only a couple of weeks into the season and the talk is already starting. The Cavs have plenty of time to morph into a 60-win team, but right now they don’t look it. And the longer they struggle, the louder the drum beat is going to sound.

NBA opening night reaction

Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas Morning News: How different are the Mavericks? We have a long time to try and figure that out, but clearly the arrival of Shawn Marion and Drew Gooden won’t answer all of Dallas’ problems right away. Mostly, the Mavs opened the season looking a lot like what we have seen around here. Dirk Nowitzki scored 34 but didn’t have one of his better shooting nights. The offensive energy came from J.J. Barea (13 points, six rebounds, four assists) as it often does. But it was clear in the Denver series last spring that the Mavericks just weren’t quite good enough at the defensive end of the floor. Since then, not much that was done here was designed to change that.

Brian Windhorst, It was quite obvious the Cavs were uncomfortable and in search mode from the top on down. Mike Brown was changing lineups and strategies on the fly, the defense was a mess for long stretches and the offense was in its old, but infamous, all-James, all-the-time mode in the final minutes. This, of course, is what the Cavs were afraid of after a somewhat ineffective preseason. While there’s plenty of time to deal with those bumps — though the Celtics will have strong bragging rights until the teams meet again on Feb. 25 — perhaps most disturbing was the effect of Shaquille O’Neal in his first real game as a Cav. He had just 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds in 29 minutes. Deeper than those vanilla numbers, however, was his inability to deliver at all in the fourth quarter. Three different times James went to him with the score tight and the game on the line and three different times he was unable to come through.

Jay Mariotti, Fanhouse: All it means it that this is a work in progress, that no magic carpet will sweep the Cavs into June and a much-desired Finals matchup with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. The Celtics didn’t look like a team whose Big Three is a combined 100 years old. Rather, they were energized again by the dynamic point guard, Rajon Rondo, and bolstered by the offense and outside shooting of a widely despised newcomer, Rasheed Wallace. The Cavs couldn’t match up at times with Wallace, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and with Garnett looking sturdy and effective in his first game in seven months, the Celtics made a statement that they aren’t dead yet as a contender.

Elliott Teaford, Los Angeles Daily News:
Ron Artest had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists in his Lakers debut. At game’s end, Jackson praised Artest for his standout defensive work against Al Thornton, who had eight points on 4-for-11 shooting and nine rebounds in place of injured rookie forward Blake Griffin. “He played shut-down defense very well against their scoring forward, Thornton,” Jackson said. “I thought he looked like he was in the offensive mix most of the time.”

Why didn’t the Cavs make a deal?

On last night’s TNT coverage, Charles Barkley and David Aldridge talked a little bit about Cleveland’s attempts to swing a trade. First up is Aldridge:

“(The Cavaliers) tried (to make a trade), they really did try. They were all over the place. They tried to get Antawn Jamison from Washington, they tried to get Amar’e Stoudemire, they tried to get Richard Jefferson, they tried to get Shaq. I can tell you this, they were more interested in Shaquille O’Neal than they were in Amar’e Stoudemire. That’s a fact. They wanted Shaq badly and they really tried to get him.”

Then there’s Barkley:

“The Cavaliers made a mistake (by not making a trade)…They should have said, ‘We’re going to keep LeBron (James), we’re going to keep Mo Williams, you can have anybody else we got.’ If they would have done anything to get a big body they would have been better off.”

Rookie J.J. Hickson is just 20 years-old and has shown great potential. He’s 6’9″ (which is the optimum size for a power forward), athletic and has a few polished moves down low…

Read the rest after the jump...

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