Lance Stephenson remains an enigma.
In one of the most puzzling free agency transactions this writer can recall, “Born Ready” has rebuffed The Indiana Pacers $44 million dollar contract offer and has signed with Charlotte for 3 years $27 million.*
Essentially, Stephenson has passed on a guaranteed $26 million dollars extra and bolted for a considerably less talented team. Such a move might have been understandable if this was a player coming to the end of their career, and he had already received big pay days. But this is Lance’s first time getting paid big money, and he has manoeuvred himself out of guaranteed “cash money.”
Stephenson it appears, hugely overestimated his market value after having a breakout season. He was in contention for an All Star spot, owned the title of “most triple doubles” last year, and became a legitimate starting player on a contending team. But while General Managers saw this, they also saw a player whose erratic behaviour included the following:
He also got into an altercation in practice with teammate Evan Turner on the eve of the NBA playoffs.
Much respected NBA journalist Adrian Wojnarowski had this to say on the incident at the time.
“Turner hadn’t been the first Pacer to lose his temper with Stephenson these tumultuous several weeks, and Stephenson’s relentlessly irritable nature suggests Turner won’t be the last.”
In short, while “Sir Lancelot” had proven himself to be a very good player, teams had doubts about him as a teammate.
Ergo, when the Pacers came in with the $44 million offer Stephenson should have signed on the dotted line without delay. But no, Stephenson felt he was being disrespected and thought the offer was “low ball,” and thus scoffed at it. One must wonder about Lance’s advisors and why they let Stephenson make such a moronic move.
“It really wasn’t the money. We’re betting on Lance and not against Lance.” – Stephenson’s agent, Alberto Ebanks.
And yet, I believe this could work out to be a great move for Charlotte. Sure they will have worries about the baggage the kid from Brooklyn, New York arrives in town with. The mercurial Stephenson is joining an extremely image conscious team, who have just rebranded to become The Charlotte Hornets, but the gamble Jordan has taken on Stephenson is one worth taking. If Stephenson rolls snake eyes, if his development tails off and his on court and in locker issues do not, then Jordan can get rid after two years. A risk for sure, but not a franchise destroying one.
One thing all basketball fans will be eagerly awaiting will be whether Lance continues this habit:
If he does, I think we can all look forward to The G.O.A.T flatly ignoring him.
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.
So yeah, good move Charlotte.
Conor O’Mahony, Pundit Arena.
*With only 2 of those years guaranteed, if Lance underperforms the team can opt out of the last year of his contract.
*In 2002 after 14 years in Charlotte, the Hornets relocated to New Orleans. The following year, Charlotte secured an expansion team, and their owner Bob Johnson chose the nickname “Bobcats” in honour of himself no less. The expansion team was a disaster for Johnson who lost millions, and the expansion never worked. The original Charlotte Hornets were a stellar organisation who sold out 364 games over a 9 season stretch, before relocating. The venture was a financial disaster for Johnson, who lost millions before selling majority ownership to Jordan in 2010. New Orleans recently changed their team name to “The Pelicans,” creating a window of opportunity for Jordan. Jordan decided that the time was right to embrace the past team’s success and bring back a winning name.
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