Business and Basketball intertwine on a daily basis in the NBA. So when Hawks captain Joe Johnson said he will not sign an extension and will play out the final year of his contract this season, it's strictly a business-of-Basketball decision for the three-time All-Star.
"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."
Johnson, 28, will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, joining a deep and talented free-agent group that is headlined by reigning league MVP LeBron James and includes All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Hawks made a four-year, $60-plus million contract offer to Johnson this summer, but Johnson said that he decided not to sign the extension after mulling it over during the offseason. However, anyone concluding that his decision is a reflection of his feeling toward his teammates or the franchise would be mistaken.
"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 addition 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."
Tuesday's first practice of training camp ended like most every other practice the Hawks had since Johnson arrived from Phoenix in August 2005. Johnson was one of the last players to leave the floor. He stayed for an extra hour, caught up in an ultra-competitive 3-point shooting contest with Bibby, Crawford and free agents Mike Wilks and Frank Robinson.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson, who also is in the final year of his contract, said Johnson's contract is the least of his worries.
"He had an option to sign or not sign," Woodson said. "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 your contract situation is."
Woodson pointed out Johnson's service record with the Hawks as proof that no one needs to concern themselves with what will motivate his All-Star this season.
"Joe's been such a big part of the growth and movement we've made as a franchise, so I wouldn't expect anything but his best as always," Woodson said. "He's not going to let up, I promise you that. We talked about it at our [team dinner Monday]. This team means a lot to him, and we've got some goals that we've set that we all want to accomplish. There's a time and a place for the business that he'll have to deal with. And that's later.
"But that's not anyone's concern but his. And it should stay that way."