Updates from Saturday, July 19 (Adam Fromal)
Michael Jordan went through his legendary NBA career as one of the most ruthless competitors the sport has ever seen. He'd respond to every slight, try to win each challenge and desire to thoroughly embarrass an opponent, not just beat him.
Is it any surprise he likes Lance Stephenson's competitiveness?
"He told me what he likes about me, he told me what I need to calm down on," the dynamic 2-guard told Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer about Jordan's communication with him. "He told me how I can contribute to the team. And he told me he believed in my talent. He likes my competitive edge."
Was MJ just blowing smoke into Stephenson's ears? Probably not, as Born Ready's willingness to do whatever's necessary on the court—and sometimes too much—must remind the G.O.A.T. of exactly what he would do during the 1990s, just minus all the antics.
This partnership may well shape up to be a magical one.
Nobody can accuse Charlotte Hornets free-agent signee Lance Stephenson of lacking a sense of humor.
Per the Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell, the Hornets' newest addition poked fun at his playoff antics during Friday’s press conference introducing him to his new digs:
Stephenson: "I bring more to the table than blowing in someone's ear."— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 18, 2014
“Born Ready” solidified his stance as a controversial figure within the Association during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Miami Heat. During a play stoppage, he blew into four-time MVP LeBron James' ear.
Whether you applaud Stephenson for trying to get inside LBJ’s head or condemn him for acting erratically, this much is clear: He’s a great player.
During the ECF series against Miami, Stephenson averaged 14 points, 5.8 rebounds and five assists per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the field. Those numbers were largely overshadowed by the extracurricular activities.
During the 2013-14 regular season, the 23-year-old recorded a league-best five triple-doubles. He also led all qualified 2-guards in rebounding by a wide margin. He hauled in 7.2 boards per game at the shooting guard spot. Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz was second at 5.1 per contest. Stephenson was certainly among the NBA’s biggest All-Star snubs.
Hornets general manager Rich Cho had nothing but good things to say about the signing, per Bonnell:
Cho calls Lance Stephenson "one of the best young players in the league."— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 18, 2014
Cho says primary attraction to Stephenson was he's "a big-time competitor."— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 18, 2014
Meme generating aside, the Brooklyn native undoubtedly makes Charlotte a better team. More interestingly, though, this is a brutal loss for Indy.
The 28-year-old veteran had a solid start to the 2013-14 campaign—averaging 16.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting in November—but his numbers tailed off after the fact. He wound up scoring 13.9 points per contest on 43.6 percent shooting. He also didn’t record a double-double during the season, much less a triple-double.
At the very least, it appears as if Stephenson is poised to put all the playoff theatrics behind him as part of a new organization. We’ll just have to wait and see on that front.
As for what Stephenson can bring on the court to complement Charlotte's talents, Bonnell wrote:
The only way to make center Al Jefferson more effective inside is to occupy perimeter defenders, so opponents find it harder to double-team Jefferson. Stephenson has that capacity, far beyond that of incumbent starters Gerald Henderson at shooting guard and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at small forward.
It will also be interesting to see how Stephenson jells with point guard Kemba Walker. Lance is used to dominating the ball and orchestrating the offense as a combo guard. It will take some adjustments from both guys before they get acclimated, but his offensive prowess will take pressure off Big Al.
As long as those two can create team chemistry, though, Charlotte will be prepped for a deep playoff run in the watered-down Eastern Conference.
All stats via NBA.com unless otherwise noted.