Lance takes talents, drama to Hornets, while Pacers sift through options


VIDEO: Lance Stephenson talks with the media after Indiana falls in Game 6 of the East finals

LAS VEGAS – Lance being Lance.

That’s how some will explain free-agent shooting guard Lance Stephenson‘s decision to sign with the Charlotte Hornets for $18 million guaranteed vs. the $44 million offered by his previous team, the Indiana Pacers.

Given Stephenson’s occasionally erratic behavior and impulsive thinking – the blowing-in-LeBron‘s-ear stuff that drove down his market value just weeks before free agency – the idea of leaving $26 million on the table to switch teams might seem so … so Lance. According to the Charlotte Observer, Stephenson will be paid $9 million in each of his first two Hornets seasons, with a slight raise in 2016-17 if the team exercises its option to retain him.

As confident as Stephenson is in his truly impressive talents, that might just permit the brash Brooklyn native with the “Born Ready” nickname to market himself again sooner at a higher price. Heck, it might keep him relatively hungry and focused on his next deal, mitigating the fears many in Indianapolis and around the NBA had that Stephenson, if validated with major money, might go from incorrigible to unmanageable.

Then again, maybe he was just bored. And with such a short guarantee, if the mercurial Stephenson (who will be 24 in September) undermines the image-conscious Hornets on the court or elsewhere, he might face even more frustration the next time he hits free agency.

He is Charlotte owner Michael Jordan‘s challenge to handle now, after four years of Larry Bird‘s TLC in Indiana – if Stephenson still requires or accepts mentoring from an all-timer.

Assuming Stephenson locks in while on the court, Charlotte – in this fallback move after its offer sheet to Utah’s Gordon Hayward was matched by the Jazz – has added a formidable talent. Stephenson is a multiply skilled wing player who is a natural scorer, a terrific athlete, a crafty (and sometimes wild) passer when he spies the opening and a lively, tenacious defender who welcomes the task of stifling big scorers. He has good range that can get better after shooting 49 percent overall and 35 percent on 3-pointers, while averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

At its best, Stephenson’s energy served as jumper cables for an Indiana team that could be too calm, too centered for its own good some nights. At its worst, that energy had the effect of Tasering his own team. The Pacers’ locker room was full of veteran players who could rein Stephenson back in; with the Hornets’ loss of Josh McRoberts and several young players trying to make their bones like Stephenson, who knows if Charlotte has the necessary steadying influences needed for Lance.

Indiana had offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million deal two weeks ago that, by all reports, had not been amended. Its average value of $8.8 million was only marginally different from the $9 million for which Stephenson is uprooting.

Even as players such as Hayward, Chandler Parsons and Trevor Ariza were getting bigger deals, Stephenson never pushed into eight-figure territory because of the risks associated with his behavior. He ranked among the league’s leaders in technical fouls and flopping fines, and was stats-centric enough to steal rebounds from teammates Roy Hibbert and David West (and to complain at the scorers table if he felt something was missed). Even Bird criticized him at the end for his distracting antics against Miami in the East finals, where Stephenson whipped up media scrutiny for days on end.

Now, however, the Pacers have a different sort of headache. Replacing good Lance might be just as challenging as handling bad Lance. There are precious few options left among free agents – especially since Indiana already cut loose former Philadelphia guard Evan Turner, who disappointed after his acquisition by Bird in February.

The latest Lance insurance policy is C.J. Miles, a 6-foot-6 veteran of nine NBA seasons with Utah and Cleveland. Last season, Miles averaged 9.9 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists while shooting 43.5 percent. He hit 39.3 percent of his 3-pointers but isn’t comparable to Stephenson as an athlete, defender or offense generator.

Outside options? Rodney Stuckey still is available after moving into a bench role with the Pistons. Ray Allen at 39 wouldn’t be able to handle the workload Indiana needs from Stephenson’s spot. There’s always a chance the Pacers could indulge George Hill‘s inner off-guard dreams and find another point guard, like former Magic playmaker Jameer Nelson.

Barring a stealthy save by Bird late in free agency or via trade, Stephenson has gone from blowing in LeBron’s ear to boxing the Pacers’ ears … all at a head-scratching bargain price.

 

51 Comments

  1. simo says:

    this is a great deal by Lance – dont forget he is only 23

    he is betting that in 2 years time he will have improved/matured enough to earn a 4/5 year deal giving him 10/12 mill a year which is more $ in the long run.

    he could be an All star at charlotte which would drive up his price

    Make em Dance Lance!

  2. Pétrus says:

    And now the pacers can really improve without him, i’d rather have a reliable average SG who really cares about the name in the front of his jersey, than have a selfish triple-double leader of the season

  3. Willy Spurd says:

    All this deal tells me is that LS must have been the center of the mid season melt down? He has no friends in Indiana. They should be fun to watch! Hope he turns his career towards the better.

  4. Jones says:

    Great signing for Charlotte and Move for Stephenson.

    High reward and low risk. If needed be Charlotte can sit him down for Henderson and Neal. Maybe even give Hairston some time.

    Meanwhile, Stephenson has a place to fix his reputation and become a key cog. Kemba Walker’s leadership will also play a large role. It’ll be good for Stephenson to have another New York guy he respect calling the shots.

    And the defensive tandem at the SG and SF with MKG. Ugh.

  5. Smart Move. Maybe Monroe to Indiana.

  6. I don’t really know what lance will do. Cant predict him at all. But look for the Pacers to make moves to fill this gap. Larry Bird is always working!

  7. OKC says:

    Also be prepared for another terrible lock out as the owners try to make the players take as little of the new profits as possible.

  8. OKC says:

    All these players are signing 2 year deals because in 2017 the NBA’s TV contract will be renegotiated and renewed. Additionally, in 2017 the NBA or the players union can opt out of the new CBA. The league’s TV contract is expected to be worth 50% more, which is a tremendous amount of money, and you better bet that the players will want their well deserved piece of that and that they will opt out of the CBA and negotiate a new CBA and salary cap. So in 2 years there is every reason to believe that the league will be offering bigger and better contracts.

    Basically anyone taking a 5 year deal right now is getting ripped off, and their agents surely know this and are telling them. The best you can do right now is what LeBron did, take the max you can get for the next 2 years then renegotiate a bigger contract when they likely come out with the new CBA.

    • boots says:

      that’s only if you’re a good enough player that you know you will get hired 2 years later

  9. Representing Pacer Fans says:

    Let him go. Lance was on the court for Lance. I can’t tell you how many times the Pacers were in on the verge of winning or losing and in the last five minutes Lance wants to mouth off and get a foul or push the issue. He had no perspective. He lived in the moment and was quicker to retaliate or show off with his mouth and body than he was to use his head. The only thing professional about his game is his tenacity, but even that has to be in moderation. You talk about a guy with A+ potential, B+ skills, and a ton of raw talent…but lacking basketball I.Q. and judgement. Good luck with this Wild Pony Charlotte, it was the best alternative for the Pacers.

  10. AT says:

    Smart move, he will be the next James Harden. Leaving a very good team to take over Charlotte and be their main guy

  11. harrythehawk says:

    I like the move, think Lance made a smart move to get out of Indiana. I also think he will grow and mature while in Charlotte for the next 3 years. It’s a learning curve that we all go through. Some are just more hard headed than others. Lance Stephenson will be just fine, not to mention he’s a really good basketball player. The Leastern Conference is really making some changes this off season!

  12. Kevin says:

    Doesn’t seem puzzling to me.

    He’s worth more than nine million a year, especially when you consider the contracts that are being thrown around this offseason. He dropped his stock last year with his antics so he’s getting low offers now. In three years he’ll be in his prime with the bad memories from this year out of the collective consciousness and there will be a higher salary cap.

    He shouldn’t lock himself into getting underpaid for five years. He should get underpaid for three years and then sign a bigger contract.

  13. baller says:

    wow. seems like hornets have something going here
    2014-2015 starting lineup

    pg. kemba walker
    sg. lance stephenson
    sf. michael kidd gilchrist
    pf. noah vonleh or cody zeller
    c. al jefferson

    very decent team

    • you got that right says:

      for sure. They’re a better team right off the bat. With that core line-up, they won’t be push overs at playoff time anymore.

      • charless702 says:

        Yeah because Lance Stephenson is a “game changer.” The Hornets (man that still sounds weird to say) weren’t “push overs” during the playoffs last year. They just got beat down by a team a whole lot better than their own. If Lebron still played for the Heat the results would still be the same. You should be thanking Lebron for going back to Cleveland and making the East more balanced than before.

  14. A.J. says:

    C.J. Miles is a joke. A ballhog and gunner of the highest order. Or lowest order, depending on your perspective. I’ve lost some respect for Bird the past few years, he’s made and continues to make some really questionable decisions.

  15. mojo says:

    my oh my…did not expect such a blow from Larry Bird…what is wrong to give a guy shorter term contract??!! stubborness of Larry cost Pacers too much…without Lance Pacers are mediocre team lost in Central division behind Cavs and Bulls…I can’t believe we traded Plumlee and Green to Suns what a stupid move that was – Scola is a complete bust…. what I would do now – 1) sign Nelson asap 2) move GHill to SG position 3) trade Hibbert to Portland for Lopez and CJ McCollum or to Bucks for Mayo and Sanders and waive Donald Sloan please – he is a useless bust I would trade him for a bag of chips

  16. Evan says:

    Funny all these comments saying “Larry Bird doesn’t know what he’s doing” and “It’s all about the money.” Second one first, Indiana had more money on the table, albeit not a great deal more- but more. As for LB, he knows more than you can comprehend. His moves have created a contender from NOTHING. I’m not a huge fan of the Pacers but their only issues stemmed from off-court drama that impacted their mental state. If everyone stays healthy and they are able to get a couple of role players to fill the holes in the lineup created by Lance’s exit and the lack of performance from Turner (who I would not pick up were I Bird) they can continue to contend. Couple that with a strong year from George and Hibbert and the Pacers could reach the finals. All contingent, of course, with their experience helping to shield them from the impact of any off-court drama this year. Bottom line, it’s a young, developing team. If history tells you one thing it should be the Larry Bird should not be underestimated.

  17. TROYBOY says:

    A good decision not to up the offer (long term) for the Pacers Organization. That’s the way to do business. Set a price and deal with the consequeces. Now it’s time to go to Plan B. One player should not hold any organization hostage because they think they’re worth more than they really are. Lance is a good player. But giving him big money knowing the kinds of things he would do is not a smart thing to do. Don’t forget about Ron Artest. Lance can be that crazy too.

    I just hope he would have stayed in Indiana and try to win a championship first before he goes out to get his money. But that’s the business aspect of sports. You can’t fault Lance for doing what he thinks is best for him and his family.

    Good Luck Lance!!!

  18. mark says:

    Paul george is a star no.matter what and that will shine through but this is about lance in more ways then one a back court pairing of him and kamba walker could do wonders for him in the short run because his deal is only 3 years with a team.option for the last year it’s possible that if he stays focused and keeps his eye on the prize which for him is a bigger payday it come sooner rather the later yes he has a personality that is bigger then his game is but he is young and his game is coming along well the pacers needed him but this was way of showing the pacers he did not need them.and did not want to get locked in for 5 years at the price so this move is not about the long term for Stevenson it’s more about boosting his numbers and showing he is a difference maker on a team that needs help so he is actually making a smart move in the long run play 3 years for a bad team boost your numbers make the playoffs show the rest of the nba.com you have what it takes to earn a bigger contract and over on its clearly. Not about winning at the moment

    • Cam says:

      Bad team? Buddy I’ll go on record saying that the Hornets will have a better record than the Pacers and go further in the playoffs. Simply because they are a more disciplined and fundamentally sound basketball team. Not to mention the fact Lance will learn a lot more from Michael than Larry. Michael played a similar style, and Larry Bird was to tough for someone like him.

  19. Daniel333 says:

    George, Hibbert, West and Hill badly need a TRUE point guard if they want to come out of the East and compete for the NBA Championship.

  20. celentano says:

    Lance is overated 100%,he showed barely something during the play-offs!!! Onle what he did was trash talking Ledecision & co,wothless send him to d-league!

  21. Patty says:

    LANCE HAS DRAMA BUT HE IS A GOOD GUY. PAUL GEORGE IS THE PROBLEM FOR THE PACER.

  22. Patty says:

    Lance, We are so proud of you! Larry Bird should be ashamed of himself. Lets see what Paul George does now without Lance Stephenson. Paul George is no Super Star.

  23. I can see Lance doing well in Charlotte that has a bit more upside than Indiana. We all love Paul George but Roy Hibbert flamed out last season horribly, David West is only getting older and the rest is well the rest. Indiana at the same time didn’t really need Stephenson as much as they were being loyal to him, they NEED a PG, a real one. Eric Bledsoe anyone. They also need a reliable shooter, I might try to pry hometown kid Eric Gordon from New Orleans who would be great next to George with his shooting ability and ability to create. Either way I did not see Indiana repeating the season they had last year no matter what, in a much improved East and a team that was well exposed by Atlanta as to the blueprint for how to beat them they were sure to disappoint.

  24. Sterling says:

    I think he was tired of whatever bad vibes were messing with Indiana off-court.

  25. tyrone says:

    I believe it is a terrible move for lance. It is all about money, what he doesn’t reliaze is that he is starting over again, He will not be the first option(like he wants to be) and he is going to a sub-par team that is still at the bottom of rebuilding, When all this comes to lite for stevenson it will be during the all star break when he is once again left in the wind and wondering why. He is a spark plug, but his d is lacking,(even if he is showing off for the carmera he is still a step behind as a defender and often gets beat to the spot). He is spotty on offense, if the ball isn’t in his hands after mid-court then if he gets it at all he is going to shoot, good or bad.. In short lance wants to be bruce wayne and batman, when it truth he is robin in training, just impatient

  26. Nick says:

    Lance made a good move in my book. The contract is shorter, but he’s getting a higher annual salary with the opportunity to go back to the market in two years. The Pacers aren’t going to go anywhere until they trade Hibbert and upgrade at PG. Lance has a chance to build with the Hornets and play a more up-tempo game. He probably felt stifled and frustrated at Indy, always having to be the spark plug.

    • Patty says:

      Totally AGREE with You. Great Business decision for Lance Stephenson. Lance is only 23 years old. Shame on Larry Bird. Pacers LOST A Great Player!!!

  27. dmh says:

    I think it is a move that has the potential of actually working. Stephenson was too alpha male to last in Indy long term. Charlotte needs a talented alphamale wing to take the pressure off of Jefferson and Walker. I think MJ can be good for Lance in a way. I think that as time wore on Lance was just padding his stat sheet instead of doing what was best and getting Hibbert and especially George the ball at the right times. Not that the Pacers did not need that scoring (they did), but ultimately some of his antics costed dearly in the grand mojo of the team.

    As the 2nd pick in the draft Evan Turner was worth the short term risk but, not worth picking up the qualifying offer afterward. Now that Lance is gone Turner might be worth taking another look at under a minimum contract. Turner was not worth the QO. However he can do some good things with the ball in his hands. I doubt that it would happen but, the pacers do need a playmaker. I also wonder who picks up Jameer Nelson and for how much. The big issue is playmaking. The pacers should have tried to get a couple pieces from MJ’s motley crew. Oh well, I guess it is time to fill the pacer roster with whatever minimum player fits around George.

  28. JoshL says:

    Look at the free agents 2 years from now… Durant, Conley, Horford, Noah, Howard, etc. He was getting paid 9 million a year anyhow. But he can join a team with any of these guys when their contract is up. Indiana already died, there’s no reason to stay there.

  29. Boozer to Hornets. Both AL and BOOZER are undersize but can still score and rebound well, defensively I’m not sure.

  30. xyz says:

    I like this actually.

    Seems to be a sensible move a first for Lance?

  31. DIRK IS THE MAN says:

    lance is the man!!!! its better to be wild that to lack effort in my book this article is disrespectful, focuses and all the negative aspects of lance, while, were it not for him ……. well, u will see!, larry bird should not have returned into management, the team was doing better without him.

    • DBGAMES says:

      He can play for the And 1 streetball team.

      • tyrone says:

        that is the only way lance will get a championship is to play for the and 1 streetball team. People don’t seem to realize that lance will be unchecked in the locker room—and that knuckle-head HAS to grow on you–or you will get the pivitol melt-down that the pacers had. Not saying he was the main element that caused the losing skid, but he was that joker at the top of the hill with a snowball and a push.

  32. Dom says:

    I think Lance needed a new start on a new team. If he creates an issue then the Hornets can bench him. They benched Tyrus Thomas and Ben Gordan who both made >10M a year so they can bench Lance if they have too. I am curious what will happen with Gerald Henderson and Gary Neal. Henderson could be poised to be a great 6th man but i am not sure what will happen with Neal. Hopefully all three will get minutes….

  33. spectator says:

    good riddens lance…hes now MJs problem…hopefully he grows up with the hornets…yet another flop for the pacers..

  34. Fred says:

    Can’t help but notice all the 2-year deals; definitely a trend. Another set of head-scratching moves is the Lakers’ choice to overpay some returning players like Hill and Young. Fans liked them, for sure. But, put this in the Stephenson context. The Lakers said they were interested–and with wide open wallets, why wouldn’t he want to try out the Lakers? They have a history of dealing with problem-child athletes. Oh, well. Asi es la vida!

  35. slider821 says:

    writers always trying to compare apples to oranges $ figures to tell the story they want. He’s not really leaving $26m on the table. $44 over 5yr is $8.8M per while $27 over 3yr is $9M per. Lance just expects to continue to improve and thinks he’ll get a bigger contract after these 3 yrs than the $8.8M he would be locked into on the Pacers in yr 4 and 5.

    • Carlo says:

      Just like LBJ did by signing a 2yrs-only contract with Cavs.

    • John says:

      Exactly, just another article with a negative spin…he’s making more money now. The last time I checked, 9 million was more than 8.8 million. He’d rather make $9 million for 2 years and get a raise for the third year if he is retained for that third year. If he decides to become a free agent after that 3rd year, then he can likely command way more than 8.8 per year. He doesn’t want to lock into a 5 year deal with Indiana for $8.8 million per year.

  36. Nate Dog says:

    Lance was a great Defender and streaky shooter for the Pacers. He needed, however, to be in an uptempo Offense where he’d really shine. Not sure if the Hornets will become a more uptempo team but they should to utilize Lance’s talents. Larry Bird never seem to understand that concept. They employed a fast pace in the early part of the season and then stopped for whatever reason and the Team went into a tailspin and nearly imploded prior to the start of the playoffs. Good Luck….lance, You’re going to need to keep your cool and just play ball. I hope we don’t face the Hornets in the playoffs and they’re playing an uptempo offense…..if so,, they’ll beat us in 5 games….lol.

    • tyrone says:

      lol I know you are joking—and the only time lance is really effective on offense is when he grabs the rebound and takes it the lenght of the court. He CAN’T run a half court offense, didn’t even want to learn the pick and roll, and tends to pout if they don’t get him the ball in the 2nd period. I do wish him well, but I truely feel that he will be dissappointed the next time in free agency comes around—will start having the same dream as D Wilkins for ATL. lol All that money and no/0 rings.

  37. JG says:

    Don’t remember something being good and bad for the Pacers at the same time… wait now I do Lance through out his career!

    With that said…. there’s some baLANCE in the east!