« Josh Richardson on the rise in a number of ways | Main | Joe Johnson on debut: "I am trying to play through my mistakes" »

Joe Johnson, new starter, speaks on why he joined the Heat

 Dwyane Wade kept the sales pitch simple.

"Live in Miami, man," Wade said he told Joe Johnson.

He laughed.

"I live in the best place to recruit," Wade said.

Apparently, Wade's argument was persuasive. So were testimonials shared by former teammate Amare Stoudemire, long-time friend Udonis Haslem and others.

In his first session with reporters since signing with the Heat, Johnson said those relationships were instrumental in him choosing the Heat over other suitors, which included teams higher in the standings, such as the Cavaliers and Thunder and Spurs, as well as one of his former teams, the Hawks.

"Man, I had a connection with a lot of guys here," said Johnson, a seven-time All-Star. "D-Wade, Amare, UD, guys I've been in contact with, not just throughout this process, but over the years. I just felt it was right. So that was the decision I went with."

Johnson said he heard from Wade "pretty much every day, just brief, small conversations," an extension of the relationship they established while part of the U.S.A. team in 2006, when, according to Johnson, they clicked in part because they played the same position.

The decision to join the Heat was the second difficult one Johnson has made recently. Initially, he didn't want a buyout from the struggling Brooklyn Nets, but then came to the conclusion that, "For me, man, this is my 15th season. So if I had a chance to get out and get a chance to play with a playoff-contending team, obviously I looked into it. Talked to my agent, my family, and we all came to an agreement that it was probably the best thing to do."

He said he believed he could bring versatility to the Heat. And while his decision was largely based on the current roster, he indicated he would "love" to finish his career with the Heat. Miami does not have his Bird Rights, so for Johnson to stick around, the Heat would need to use cap space, which will already be tight, especially if it chooses to re-sign Wade (as expected), as well as Hassan Whiteside and/or Luol Deng.

So the emphasis is on integrating him quickly, to contribute for this stretch run. Johnson signed with the Heat "very soon" after clearing waivers at 5 p.m. Saturday, and once the Heat got to New York, Erik Spoelstra met him for dinner, to talk about the organization and the plan forward. Wade stopped by, though not for long, since he left to watch the Warriors play the Clippers.

Spoelstra, in his pre-game comments, sounded giddy about adding Johnson, after he hadn't been able to discuss the possibility publicly over the past few days.  The Heat coach spoke of being "really excited" to add a player with "class" and "professionalism" that "fits our culture," adding that the "veteran guys, the guys over 30, they're fired up."

"We have the ultimate respect for him," Spoelstra said.

That was evident, when he gave Johnson the start at small forward, just over 24 hours after the signing.

"Let's go," Spoelstra saId. "There's no time to wait."




Powered by TypePad