Sources told ESPN.com that Johnson, after resisting buyout questions from reporters in recent weeks as the NBA’s trade deadline approached, has been sold on the idea of making a late-season switch and joining a contender for the stretch run if he and the Nets can come to terms on a contract settlement.
A number of likely playoff teams, sources said, are already pursuing Johnson: Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, Miami, Oklahoma City and Toronto.
As long as Johnson is released by new Nets general manager Sean Marks by Tuesday, he’ll be playoff eligible for his next team.
“I think he’s deserved the right to [play on a playoff team if that’s what he wants],” Marks said of Johnson during an appearance on New York’s WFAN on Thursday.
Johnson, 34, is earning $24.9 million this season in the final year of a mammoth six-year, $124 million deal that was the league’s largest at the time when he signed it with the Hawks in 2010. Brooklyn absorbed the remaining four years and $89.3 million left on Johnson’s deal — soon followed by the acquisitions of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett — in a bid to first convince then-franchise point guard Deron Williams to stay with the Nets and then to make a run at the NBA championship that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov vowed to win within the space of five years.
But the Nets have won only one playoff series after acquiring Johnson and don’t have control of their own first-round pick until June 2019.
Setting Johnson free would be the second significant move for Marks in his first week-plus on the job after Brooklyn released veteran forward Andrea Bargnani.
Johnson, who is averaging 11.8 points on 40.6 percent shooting but has seen an uptick in his performance of late, has been best known for his game-winning shots at the buzzer in Brooklyn. He has seven of them in the past decade, which accounts for the the most by any NBA player over that span by a wide margin, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Information from ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.