In a potential move that would cripple their aspirations of eventually acquiring Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the Brooklyn Nets are engaged in talks with the Atlanta Hawks on a deal for All-Star swingman Joe Johnson, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Nets' plan would be to pair Johnson and point guard Deron Williams to create an All-Star backcourt. No deal is close, and the Hawks and Nets were both discussing deals on several fronts, sources said. Hawks officials have told teams they have multiple trade possibilities.
While the Nets were discussing the possible deal for Johnson, they also were deep in talks with the Houston Rockets about acquiring power forward Luis Scola for a package of expiring contracts and a future draft pick, league sources said. There was a sense on both sides that a deal could be imminent, but it eventually hit a snag and fell apart, sources said. Unless the two sides completed the deal before midnight ET on Saturday, a potential trade would have to wait until July 11 for completion, when the league lifts its embargo for transactions.
If the Nets don't make a deal for Johnson, they're strongly considering a significant offer to Memphis Grizzlies free-agent shooting guard O.J. Mayo, sources said.
Multiple league sources believe the Nets are losing hope they can pry Howard out of Orlando, and are working diligently to construct a roster to keep Williams that doesn't necessarily give them the financial flexibility to absorb Howard when he can become a free agent next year. If the Magic do eventually make a deal for Howard – something that they haven't shown an inclination yet to do with the Nets under new general manager Rob Hennigan – the Nets would be stocked with the kind of expensive veteran contracts that wouldn't appeal to Orlando's blueprint for rebuilding.
Williams has hoped to play with Howard in Brooklyn, but Orlando has shown no immediate intent to move its All-Star center, who has one year left on his contract, sources said. Williams has narrowed his free agent choices to Brooklyn and the Dallas Mavericks.
It's doubtful Nets GM Billy King would make a deal for Johnson without the blessing of Williams and an assurance from Williams that he would re-sign with the Nets
King and new Atlanta GM Danny Ferry – former Duke teammates and close friends – have discussed the possibility of a Johnson trade that would mostly constitute a salary dump for the Hawks.
Johnson, 31, has four years and nearly $90 million dollars left on his contract. Shedding his contract would give Atlanta immense cap relief and flexibility moving forward.
The Nets would have to cobble together several contracts, including those of Jordan Farmar, who opted into the final $4.2 million year of his deal on Saturday, Anthony Morrow, Johan Petro and a sign-and-trade with one of the Nets' free agents to make the exchange of salaries work for Johnson’s contract. Johnson will make $19.8 million next season.
Without a deal for Johnson, the Nets still plan to work to re-sign free agents Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace, and believe they could have approximately $10 million remaining to try and secure a power forward, sources said. Moving Farmar and Morrow could free more cap space for the Nets.
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