Johnson finally lands in Atlanta
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) – The Atlanta Hawks have acquired guard Joe
Johnson in a trade with the Phoenix Suns, finalizing a deal that had long been
in the works and was the cause of controversy with the ownership group of the
Atlanta will send guard Boris Diaw and a pair of conditional first-round picks to the Suns in exchange for Johnson, a restricted free agent who will sign a reported five-year contract for about $70 million. The Arizona Republic had said the Hawks were ready to give Johnson an up-front bonus of about $20 million.
The Hawks were set to make this deal when the moratorium on trades and free- agent signings expired at the beginning of this month, but one of nine co- owners of the franchise — Steve Belkin — exercised his right as governor of the club to block the trade.
The others in the ownership group, as well as general manager Billy Knight, were in favor the deal, but Belkin’s decision caused friction, which was resolved earlier Friday when Belkin agreed to sell his 30 percent share in the group that owns the Hawks and the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.
Hours later, Johnson was officially dealt to the Hawks.
"I…want to express my appreciation to all who had a hand in getting Joe to Atlanta," said Knight in a release by the club. "The faith and confidence shown by our ownership group will never be forgotten, and the cooperation shown by Suns management, and Joe and his agent Arn Tellem spoke volumes to me. They have been unbelievable through this whole process and words can’t explain how grateful we are to them for their character and integrity through it all, for all of them sticking to their word and backing us up all the way."
Johnson appeared in all 82 regular-season games for the Suns last season and was a major factor in the team’s NBA-best record of 62-20. He averaged 17.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.5 assists as the third option in the offense, which reportedly was one of the reasons he wanted to leave Phoenix.
The 24-year-old Arkansas product, according to the report in the Republic, wanted more of a starring role.
"I am extremely excited to add a player of Joe’s background to our team," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "He is a great young talent in our league and when you couple him with the young talent we currently have on the roster, I can’t wait to see them mesh as a unit. Joe has continually improved his game each and every season, and now he is poised to become one of the bright stars in the Eastern Conference."
Johnson only appeared in nine playoff games for the Suns last season, missing six games with a displaced fracture of his left orbital bone. He still averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 boards and 3.3 assists, as the Suns lost to eventual-champion San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old Diaw starred for France and was a member of Pau Orthez, the country’s top league team, before the Hawks drafted him in 2003. The 21st overall pick of 2003 averaged 4.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 66 games last season with the Hawks.