Ivan Johnson Signs to Play in China with Zhejiang Golden Bulls


Ivan Johnson doesn’t bluff.

As we reported nine days ago, Johnson was seriously considering leaving the NBA for “lucrative offers from Chinese and Italian teams.”

A few days later he issued a two-week deadline for NBA teams to contact him with an offer, otherwise he would take his talents overseas.

Dude wasn’t lying.

Since he hasn’t received much interest in free agency, the former Atlanta Hawks enforcer has decided to leave the NBA and has signed to play in China with the Golden Bulls of Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank, according to his agent Jeremiah Haylett.

“It is very legitimate Ivan could end up overseas this season,” Haylett told RealGM.com two weeks ago “It’s the best possibility right now. It wouldn’t be a multi-year deal, though, because he would like to get back into the NBA.”

A source close to the situation told CSNNW.com that “Johnson will be fine either way, as long as he is playing the game of basketball.

While Johnson’s agent wouldn’t disclose financial details of the contract, he said it has no opt-out clause and will only last for the duration of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) season.

“It’s a 3½-month season,” Haylett said. “We plan on coming back to the NBA after the CBA season.”

Johnson entered the offseason as an unrestricted free-agent when Atlanta elected not to extend a qualifying offer to him by the July 1 deadline. He was later renounced by the Hawks, meaning the team was giving up his Bird rights, although they could have still signed him at any time to a veteran’s minimum contract. However, with the recent bolstering of the frontcourt with acquisitions of Paul MillsapElton BrandPero Antić, and Gustavo Ayon, there were hardly any minutes available for Johnson so he was cut loose.

Like Ivan, former Hawks teammate Johan Petro will also be playing in China next season.

The New York Knicks were one of the top teams inquiring about Johnson’s services, but no offer was ever made. The Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers were also interested.

Johnson is no stranger to the game overseas.

Before suiting up for an NBA team, the 6’8” power forward played a couple of seasons in the Korean Basketball League for the Changwon LG Sakers and Jeonju KCC Egis from 2008-2010. Although, it’s certain he won’t be returning to the KBL — he was “banned forever” for directing the middle finger gesture at a referee during the final game of the 2010 championship series. In addition to being banned, the KBL also fined Johnson $4,448 (US).

Aside from South Korea, Johnson has also spent time playing in Puerto Rico and China.

In Atlanta, Ivan was adored by Hawks fans for his volcanic temperament and intimidating prowess, along with his death-inducing beard.

Johnson appeared in 125 games, averaging 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest in his two-year stint with the Hawks.

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Tags: Atlanta Hawks Ivan Johnson NBA Free Agency Zhejiang Chouzhou Bank