Johnson signs for 6 years, $20 million

October 31, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Throughout negotiations with the Charlotte Hornets, Larry Johnson said he wouldn't sign a contract with a first-year salary of $1.95 million.

Yesterday, he did.

After missing 27 days of the preseason, Johnson signed a six-year contract worth one dollar less than $20 million. If he fulfills an incentive clause, Johnson can make an additional $475,000 in the sixth, unguaranteed year.

Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in June's NBA draft, also received an escape clause following the fourth season that his agent said was crucial to an agreement.

Still, Johnson's mood suggested the holdout failed. When asked what he gained, Johnson held out two fingers just a sliver apart.

"If I play as tough as they negotiate, we'll be a tough team," Johnson said. "I don't know if we gained anything. People say, 'How much did we lose by waiting?' If I get into the flow right away, I think I'll be fine."

Johnson will practice today at the Charlotte Coliseum. Hornets coach Allan Bristow said Johnson will play against Boston when Charlotte opens on the road tomorrow night.

Though Johnson has worked out in Dallas with a personal trainer, he acknowledged today's practice will be a physical struggle.

Johnson's agent, Steve Endicott, said the escape clause after four years is the most attractive part of the deal. Both Endicott and Hornets president Spencer Stolpen said it's almost certain that Johnson will exercise that out clause following the 1994-95 season. Assuming current NBA rules are still in effect, Johnson would become a restricted free agent, meaning the Hornets would have the right to match another NBA team's offer.

"We got a few more dollars [in the incentive] and I like the way we worked out the option," Endicott said. "The best part of the contract is the option."

Stolpen was elated.

"I was always confident it was going to get done," Stolpen said.

Johnson's incentive clause will be tough to achieve. To qualify for the extra $475,000, Johnson will have to make the roster for three All-Star games in his first four seasons or be named NBA Rookie of the Year and play in one All-Star Game.

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