On the first full day of NBA free-agent negotiations, things heated up quickly for the Nets as general manager Sean Marks moved to add a veteran presence to the roster with a trio of signings that included using the taxpayer mid-level exception for coveted shooter Patty Mills, who reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $12 million.
Earlier in the day, it was reported free-agent guard Bruce Brown accepted the Nets’ qualifying offer worth $4.7 million for one year and the right to become and unrestricted free agent next year. Marks also signed 12-year veteran forward James Johnson, who will be playing for his 10th team, to a one-year deal for the veterans’ minimum.
All three moves first were reported by ESPN and confirmed by Newsday. Earlier Tuesday morning shortly after midnight, Newsday confirmed with an NBA source that free-agent guard Spencer Dinwiddie plans to join the Wizards via a sign-and-trade deal, but there was no reported progress in those talks as the Wizards continued working to create cap room for them to pay Dinwiddie up to $20 million per year.
Mills reportedly also was targeted by the Lakers and Warriors, but the 12-year veteran shooter spent the past 10 seasons of his career with the Spurs and shares a connection with Marks, who worked for that organization. Mills, who turns 33 next week, currently is playing in the Tokyo Olympics for Australia, which has assistant coach Adam Caporn, who recently was named head coach of the Nets’ G League affiliate on Long Island.
Mills should be a great fit for the Nets coming off the bench to likely team in the backcourt with starter James Harden. Mills has averaged 8.9 points per game on 38.8% career three-point shooting and has shown consistent ability to provide instant offense.
The return of Brown, who started much of last season because of injuries to Harden and Kyrie Irving, was a lift for the Nets. Brown was projected to receive offers as a restricted free agent in the $8-10 million range, which would have had huge luxury tax ramifications for the Nets, but those apparently did not materialize after the negotiating period opened at 6 p.m. ET Monday.
So Brown accepted his qualifying offer and will continue to serve as a tough defender and versatile offensive playmaker who showed he can operate as a small-ball center at 6-4.
Finally, by adding the 6-7, 240-pound Johnson, the Nets found a replacement for veteran forward Jeff Green, who accepted a two-year deal worth $10 million with the Nuggets. Johnson only has a 30.4% career three-point percentage, but he adds defense and a reputation for toughness.
Notes & quotes: The Nets on Tuesday announced the hiring of veteran NBA assistant Brian Keefe, who previously worked with All-Star forward Kevin Durant with the Thunder.