Updates from Sunday, July 20
'I’m excited about Lance,' Jefferson said in the hall outside the Hornets locker room at the Thomas & Mack Center, where he had shown up to watch Charlotte eliminate New York from the Summer League tournament. 'We’re all going to be on the same page as far as defense, and defense dictates the offense.
'But Lance is a playmaker. That’s the reason he led the NBA in triple-doubles last year. He’s got this nastiness about his game that you want on your team. I was really excited to hear he signed with us and he wanted to do that. I think he’s got a lot to prove, and he wants to show people he can be a great superstar in this league.'
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer first reported the news:
ESPN's Chris Broussard confirmed the deal:
Stephenson provided a statement on Twitter:
Indy, I had a great 4 years. Thank you Larry Bird, the fans, my coaches and teammates for the incredible experience. I will never forget any of you! I now have to look to the next phase of my career and the wonderful opportunity to continue to grow as a player and as a person in Charlotte! I'm excited to play for this franchise and the fans!! #buzzcity
Alberto Ebanks, a representative of Stephenson, released a statement to The Indianapolis Star, per Candace Buckner:
Lance is forever grateful for all the love he's received from Pacers fans. He is especially grateful to his teammates, Frank Vogel, Herb Simon. the Pacers management and, most of all, Larry Bird. While we tried our best to come to the best possible terms for both sides there was not sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract, particularly the length of the contract. Reports throughout the negotiation process with Indiana have often strayed from the truth but suffice it to say that it was less about the money. Lance will miss the city, the team and the mentor who helped transform him into the dynamic player he has become. He looks forward to making a strong contribution and beginning a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets.
Broussard provided additional details of Stephenson's move:
The deal was signed early Wednesday morning after Hornets owner Michael Jordan, general manager Rich Cho, head coach Steve Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing met with Stephenson and his representatives Tuesday night in Las Vegas. ...
... The Dallas Mavericks had a two-year, $20 million offer on the table to Stephenson, contingent on the Houston Rockets matching their offer for forward Chandler Parsons. If Houston had matched, Stephenson would have signed with Dallas, sources said.
Like many teams, the Hornets, while fans of Stephenson's play, had concerns about his antics and attitude. But sources say those concerns were alleviated in Tuesday's face-to-face meeting.
SNY.tv basketball insider Adam Zagoria has more on Charlotte's newest addition:
Former teammate Roy Hibbert took to Instagram on Wednesday morning to say goodbye, with the caption, "gonna miss you bro."
A second-round pick out of Cincinnati in 2010, Stephenson averaged 9.6 and 10.5 minutes per game in his first two seasons, respectively. As a starter in 2012-13, though, he blossomed as a do-it-all shooting guard.
Stephenson had received a five-year, $44 million offer from the Pacers, a deal team owner Herb Simon felt should have been enough to keep him in Indiana, per Bonnell: "We made him a wonderful offer and they didn’t think it was enough, so it’s a simple situation."
Last season, Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 4.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds—each of which were career highs for the 23-year-old. He was playing so well by the midway point that some felt he deserved All-Star honors.
Those early numbers, along with a few strong postseason performances, made Stephenson a hot commodity, as Mike Hill of Fox Sports pointed out:
But for all of his success on the court, Stephenson hasn't kept a low profile off it.
A high school legend in Brooklyn, New York, Stephenson was arrested for "sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl" at school and was "charged with a Class B misdemeanor," notes Dorian Block of the New York Daily News.
In 2010, in a case that was later dismissed, Stephenson was "arrested for pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs," per ESPN. And before the 2014 playoffs got underway, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported the outspoken guard was involved in a skirmish during practice and noted Stephenson's "relentlessly irritable nature."
Those issues played into concerns over the emerging star as free agency approached. Sean Deveney of Sporting News provided his thoughts on Stephenson's stock:
But he has become somewhat toxic in the eyes of those giving out contracts in the league. Just two months ago, the question was not whether Stephenson would get $40 million-plus, but simply a matter of which team would give it to him and whether the Pacers would match.
The question has changed, though. It’s no longer how much money Stephenson will get in free agency, but how much has the last two months cost him.
While Stephenson comes with plenty of baggage, he is a player on the rise. If he can continue to develop his game with the Hornets over the life of his contract, the deal will be more than worth it for the team.
Of course, there will also be a spotlight on his behavior and how his presence affects Charlotte's roster and culture moving forward.
With Stephenson, Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, Gerald Henderson, P.J. Hairston and Noah Vonleh, this is a dangerous, young team in what should be a much deeper Eastern Conference in 2014-15.
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