Daily Herald
Why is Joe Johnson still sitting on his max offer?
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 7/3/2010 2:39 PM | Updated: 7/3/2010 2:40 PM

This would be a great time for an honest conversation with Atlanta guard Joe Johnson.

The Hawks surprised the NBA world by offering Johnson a full six-year maximum contract worth around $120 million on the eve of free-agency.

As of Saturday afternoon, Johnson had not accepted it and was said to be waiting to see what LeBron James and Dwyane Wade do before making a decision.

This brings up an interesting question: Should an athlete always take as much money as he can get and never look back? Or is there such a thing as too much money in pro sports?

Look at Elton Brand as an example.

The former Bulls' first-round pick is one of the nicest guys in the league and when he signed a massive free-agent deal to join the Philadelphia 76ers in 2008, it seemed to be a win for everyone involved.

Except Brand suffered an injury during his first season, didn't play like himself at the start of the second season, and ended up getting benched for a while.

This pairing didn't seem to be good fit and Brand would have been better off playing elsewhere, but no team will touch him with $50 million left on his contract over the next three years.

Does Brand ever wish he signed for less money? Not sure. Brand's total deal was worth $80 million over five years, significantly less than what Johnson was offered from the Hawks.

Johnson surely realizes that if his performance slips in the next six years, he could be regarded as an overpaid mistake, with little hope of changing teams until he essentially becomes an expiring contract. The pressure would be on his shoulders to make sure the Hawks are a serious Eastern Conference contender.

Another case study is Ray Allen. He made more than $20 million in each of the past two seasons, but nobody really complained since he was on a team challenging for a championship, often serving as the third offensive option.

For now, Johnson is still thinking about the Bulls and Knicks. Would he sign for less money with those teams or hope to swing a sign-and-trade so he could keep the $120 million contract?

I've been writing for a while that Johnson's first choice this summer was the Bulls. If Wade and James both decide to stay where they are, Johnson could end up being the Ray Allen of a powerful Bulls team if they can also add Chris Bosh or Carlos Boozer. To sign with the Bulls outright, he'd have to sign a five-year deal worth $90 million or less.

What could Johnson buy with the $30 or 40 million left behind with this option - happiness, maybe?

It will be interesting to see what he does.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com