“He knows that we want him,” James said before the Cavs held shootaround Friday morning in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “If he decides to come [to Cleveland], it’d be great. But if not, we’ll continue to move on with what we have.”
James, a former USA Basketball teammate of Johnson’s, is one of several members of the Cavs organization with ties to the 15-year veteran.
“I mean, he’s a great piece for any team, and if we’re lucky enough to get him, he brings something to us,” James said. “If not, we have enough here to compete.”
Cleveland’s roster stands at 13 players. Should Johnson clear waivers come 5 p.m. ET Saturday, Cleveland can put in a bid for the veteran’s minimum of $1.5 million — the most they can afford based on their salary-cap figure, which already is well above the luxury-tax line — in order to acquire him.
Cleveland has some competition vying for Johnson in Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and Toronto, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein. Several of those teams could offer Johnson more than the veterans minimum.
Johnson reached a buyout agreement with the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, and an offer greater than the veterans minimum could be a factor that he takes into consideration. Johnson sacrificed $3 million that was owed to him this season in the buyout, according to Nets general manager Sean Marks.
Johnson averaged 11.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Nets this season on 40.6 percent shooting overall and 37.1 percent from 3-point range.
Should Johnson choose the Cavs, James said his transition of joining the team at this late stage of the season would not be difficult.
“It’s not tough,” James said. “We got a veteran ball group and we know what we want to do, and I think playing against Joe and competing against him, I think he’s smart enough to be able to come in here and just fit right into the flow of things. So, it’s not hard at all.”
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, weary of the league’s tampering rules, would only speak on Johnson in the context of their time together as teammates on the Atlanta Hawks from 2004 to 2008.
“He’s a nice guy,” Lue said. “I played with his crazy ass for four years. He’s a great guy.”