It seems like a lifetime ago that Lance Stephenson was considered one of the NBA’s rising stars after parlaying his stellar play with the Indiana Pacers into a three-year contract with the Charlotte Hornets (and the burden of expectation that came along with it). Things didn’t work out so well during his lone season there, and the organization quickly parted ways with him last summer.
Josh Smith‘s career has followed a similar trajectory the last few years. He was awarded an enormous payday from the Pistons only to watch that go up in flames. But he found redemption with the Houston Rockets last season as he played an integral role in their Western Conference Finals run. Doc Rivers snatched both of them up in the offseason, thinking that under his tutelage and among veteran leadership that they could not only thrive, but become a deadly part of the Clippers’ arsenal.
But that was always a risky move and one the Clippers have been paying dearly for through the first quarter of the 2015-16 season. Los Angeles has been playing .500 ball for most of the first 20 games and has suffered several ugly losses at the hands of lesser opponents. Certainly, some of that has to do with the underwhelming play of both Smith and Stephenson, but a recent report about the organization putting both of them on the trading block carries the unmistakable scent of scapegoating. Via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
The Los Angeles Clippers gauged trade interest in Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith last month, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Stephenson can be traded now while Smith is not eligible to be dealt until Dec. 15 after signing as a free agent in the offseason. Two NBA executives told Yahoo Sports that the Clippers would have hard time trading the struggling newcomers who have not fit in well during the team’s slow start.
The Clippers haven’t been as active in trying to move Stephenson and Smith in recent days because of the team’s injuries, another source said.
So, it looks like they’re stuck with both of them for the time being. And that might not be such a bad thing after all. Chemistry issues are par for the course when integrating new — and especially volatile — players into the mix. The onus is now on Rivers more than ever to get creative and figure out some way to wring some productivity out of his two biggest offseason acquisitions.
(Via Yahoo Sports)