As our Ethan Skolnick and ESPN's Zach Lowe reported today, Joe Johnson is expected to sign with the Heat when he clears waivers in the next day. The sense we've gotten is Johnson sees an opportunity for playing time here and feels comfortable with friend Dwyane Wade and others on the Heat roster.
A few points on Johnson:
### There are tax complications with signing Johnson. As many of you know, if Miami signs a player before the March 6-7 range and keeps him for the rest of the season, it would be back over the tax line. But there is one way the Heat could sign Johnson now and escape the tax: If it cuts a player and that player is signed by another team.
For example, if the Heat cuts Beno Udrih (out for the season), the Sixers could move closer to the NBA-required cap floor by claiming him (and would save some money because of arcane NBA rules).
Pat Riley and Andy Elisburg publicly have made clear that the Heat does not want to a tax team because doing so would make Miami a "repeater tax team" --- which is extremely onerous financially. Miami has said it wants to "cleanse" itself of the punitive consequences for being a repeater tax team. If Miami avoids the tax this year, it would not be at risk of being a repeater tax team the rest of the decade.
### Johnson, 34, is no longer the player who was a seven-time All-Star (2007-12 and 2014), but he is an upgrade over Gerald Green, and that's what's important here.
Johnson is shooting 37.1 percent on threes (85 for 229), which is exactly his career average (and 44.1 percent on threes in February). Green is shooting 31.6 (67 for 212), well below his 36.2 career average.
### Johnson likely would take Green's minutes, leaving Erik Spoelstra to choose between Josh Richardson and Green for his ninth rotation spot.
Richardson would have a good chance to keep that job because he can get the team into offense better than Green can.
### What's puzzling about Johnson is the steep decline in his two-point shooting. He's shooting 42.7 percent on two pointers, well below his 47.2 last season and 47.1 career average.
Here's one reason for that: He's shooting 42.6 percent on shots from three to 10 feet --- far below his 50 percent career average.
Because of his diminished accuracy on twos, Johnson's overall field goal percentage has plunged to 40.6 --- well below his 44.1 career average.
### His scoring average has diminished the past four seasons, from 18.8 to 16.3 to 15.8 to 14.4 to 11.8 this season.
### Johnson is well respected around the league, considered a consummate pro.
### Johnson is averaging just 10 points in two games against Cleveland this season and shooting 6 for 18. He's averaging 17 against Toronto and shooting 11 for 19.
### Johnson is a decent rebounder for his position (3.9 per game this season) and is averaging 4.1 assists to 2.0 turnovers.
### Johnson, who can play small forward or shooting guard, ranks just 21st among small forwards in points per game (12.1) and 22nd in field goal percentage (40.6).
As former NBA front-office exec and Yahoo contributor Bobby Marks noted, signing Johnson this weekend would cost Miami $125,000 in luxury taxes, $265,000 in salary and $2.5 million in money that wouldn't be eligible to receive in its tax distribution. But this goes well beyond $2.8 million.
This is all about being a repeater tax team. That, of course, would be avoided if Miami cuts a player with the knowledge he would be claimed elsewhere.
### The Heat might not be done. They have expressed interest in speaking to Marcus Thornton if he clears waivers Sunday. Thornton likes the Heat but will have several options. If Udrih is cut and claimed by the 76ers, the Heat would have room for three minimum players.
AN UPDATE ON WGC, MIAMI OPEN AND BECKHAM'S PROPOSED MLS TEAM
As March nears, doubt and uneasiness surround two of our marquee events --- Miami Open tennis on Key Biscayne and the WGC-Cadillac Golf Championship at Trump National Doral --- as well as David Beckham’s precarious parking plan for his proposed Miami MLS team.
With Donald Trump’s controversial comments putting the golf tournament at risk, and a court ruling doing the same with the tennis event, which is more likely to leave South Florida? The tennis tournament is far more at risk.
The Miami Open “is going to leave. It has no choice,” the tennis tournament’s attorney, Eugene Stearns, reiterated this week. “The only question is when, not if.”
Even though the Miami Open is willing to pay for $50 million in facility upgrades it deems essential, a December appeals court ruling blocked those renovations, upholding a lower court’s ruling restricting growth on Crandon Park. Stearns said another appeal is pending.
Tournament owner International Players Championship Inc. has seven years left in its contract with Miami-Dade County after this year’s event, but Stearns said the agreement is no longer valid because the county failed to provide an updated home.
Stearns “would be shocked” if the tournament leaves before the 2017 event but won’t speculate beyond.
Stearns has filed motions seeking a re-hearing and “as long as there’s an opportunity to fight the battle, we’ll fight the battle,” he said.
Stearns won’t comment on which cities have expressed interest --- Orlando has been mentioned but there’s no facility ready there --- but says “many places would spend a lot of money to lure this tournament.”
For those unfamiliar with the legal battle that leaves the Miami Open on something close to life support, a quick primer:
The tournament’s nemesis is Bruce Matheson, a descendant of the original family that owned Crandon. The land continues to be governed by restrictions tied to the 1940 donation of the property to the county.
The Mathesons, who were large land holders on Key Biscayne at the time, required Miami-Dade to build a bridge to the island after accepting the 975 acres for Crandon, which was required to be operated only for “public park purposes.”
Other Matheson family members sued to block creating a large stadium to serve the tennis tournament in the 1980s, and the litigation was settled in part by creating a four-person committee to approve any changes to the park’s master plan. A non-profit picked by the Matheson family, the National Parks Conservation Association, holds half of the seats and named Bruce Matheson to one of them.
“He doesn’t play sports and they annoy the crap out of him,” Stearns said. “He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. The county goes along with his plan. The facility is old. It’s tired. It needs to be upgraded. They want to build permanent facilities, not just bleachers, so people can watch comfortably and have permanent bathrooms. And the bleachers are unsightly.”
Butch Buchholz, who runs the WGC at Doral and was the founder of the tennis tournament, said “it’s critical for the improvements to get done. Madrid has retractable roofs. Indian Wells has done a fabulous job. Rome redid their stadium. Cincinnati has done a complete renovation. We have to do it. The grandstand is antiquated. The players have no locker-rooms. The players have to go all the way back to the stadium to change. It’s not what today’s facilities are like.”
As for golf, the PGA Tour said in December that “all options” will be explored immediately after the tournament because of Trump’s comments over the past year --- presumably those about Mexicans and proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
But Buchholz said the PGA Tour informed his event’s executives that “they do not want to leave South Florida. They want to stay in Miami. They think it works perfectly for the Florida swing. They want it to work. I’ve heard nothing about packing up and leaving.”
With Trump the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, it would be very surprising if the PGA bolts the Trump course. Buchholz said moving the event to the PGA National Resort and Spa in Palm Beach Gardens --- site of this week’s Honda Classic --- is unrealistic. And there’s not another South Florida course that would be ideal for the event.
“I’m not capable of knowing whether there is another championship course here; that’s a PGA thing,” Buchholz said. “They want us to keep our heads down. They will deal with Mr. Trump.”
Buchholz said the “PGA doesn’t want us to talk about this,” even with sponsors. He said though sponsorships are down a bit, he doesn’t attribute it to Trump’s comments and no sponsors have bolted citing Trump.
Buchholz said he heard the most resistance to Trump, from a standpoint of supporting tournaments at his golf resorts, “is from the Latin community.”
He said losing both events, which is unlikely, “would be a catastrophe.”
As for soccer, Beckham continues to move ahead with plans to build a facility on a nine-acre site on the Western edge of Overtown. As Beckham works to bring on an additional partner for a cash infusion, his plan is to wrap up everything --- including acquiring a small piece of land from Miami-Dade County and getting city approval of some zoning changes --- by June, with MLS then voting on the plan and construction beginning soon after.
But parking remains a concern. Beckham’s group plans to build no garage; the closest is five blocks away. Beckham’s group said 6800 spaces will be available within half a mile and hopes fans take public transportation to Culmer Station, then walk three blocks.
Miami mayor Tomas Regalado is skeptical: “I really don’t know how you could possibly walk from Culmer. I think it’s too far.”
Tadd Schwartz, spokeman for Miami Beckham United, explained the group's position on parking, and where things stand, thusly:
"Miami Beckham United’s partners, David Beckham, Simon Fuller, Marcelo Claure and Tim Leiweke, have pledged to build a privately-financed, world-class soccer stadium that would be developed without a penny of taxpayer dollars, making this one of the most responsible stadium agreements Miami has ever seen. We have identified a development site in Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood and our team is now performing due diligence on the property as we move toward finalizing the acquisition and beginning the formal entitlement process.
"In the meantime, Miami Beckham United is engaging nearby residents and community groups to learn about our neighbors’ priorities as our stadium development comes to life. One topic that has sparked discussion is that we are building a stadium without parking. The fact is, Miami is becoming an increasingly urban city and soccer is an inherently urban sport in markets around the world, so an MLS stadium in the urban core is a natural fit. Our stadium will be within walking distance of downtown Miami, the Metrorail system and the Miami River District, providing our fans multiple ways to arrive and plenty of restaurants and bars where they can spend time before and after matches.
"You only have to look back to the glory days of the Orange Bowl for an example of a stadium plan that thrived without parking -- and our stadium will be less than half the size of the Orange Bowl.
"Our site is just three blocks away from the Culmer Metrorail station and within a 10 minute walk of 7,000 parking spaces. We're also a short walk away from All Aboard Florida's new central station, which will provide access to Tri Rail, Metrorail and the new Brightline. We’re also exploring new transportation methods, such as parking shuttles on game days and water taxis that will arrive on the Miami River."
Of fans needing to walk several blocks to an Overtown stadium in summer heat, former Fort Lauderdale Strikers president Tim Robbie said: “I don’t think it’s ideal. But it’s workable. The hope is you have Friday night games and the downtown crowd stops after work and goes to happy hour.”
### ESPN3 will carry English and Spanish language streaming of UM-UF games Saturday and Sunday. It's the first time ESPN3 has ever streamed a college baseball game in Spanish.