The Hawks offered and Joe Johnson declined, raising the $64 million question in Atlanta: Is this the captain and three-time All-Star's final season in a Hawks uniform? That's a huge leap to make from Johnson's decision to join the 2010 free agency party, alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But the possibility has to be acknowledged. Just not by Johnson.
"My sole focus right now is on this team and what we're trying to accomplish this season," Johnson said. "I have some goals set for this season for my team and I have some individual goals set for myself as well. I really feel like I can be one of the elite players in this league and it's going to be an exciting year."
The Hawks extended a four-year, $60-plus million contract offer to Johnson this summer. But Johnson decided not to sign the extension after mulling it over during the offseason. Yet he insists that his loyalty this season remains with the Hawks and no one else.
"Like every other man in that locker room, I'm all in for my team," Johnson said. "I don't have any doubts that we're set for a big year and that's all I care about. We've all worked hard to get to this point and we're trying to get over that hump this season."
Johnson applauded the franchise's offseason moves, the re-signing of starters Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby and backup center Zaza Pachulia as well as the adding of veterans Joe Smith, Jamal Crawford and Jason Collins and the drafting of rookie point guard Jeff Teague.
"I think with the young nucleus we have with Josh (Smith), Al (Horford) and Marvin and Mike running the show, the sky is the limit for us," Johnson said. "Each year we've gotten better. And I look forward to those guys continuing to improve and our team making more strides as time goes on."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson is also in the final year of his contract, said Johnson is the least of his worries.
"You can't worry about it," Woodson said. "It is what it is. He had an option to sign or not sign. Just about every other guy on this roster has been in a similar situation in his career before, and you still have to play no matter what you contract situation is."