Pacers Owner Would Welcome Stephenson Back, But “Bird Has To Decide”

The Pacers lost Lance Stephenson to the Hornets this past summer when he inked a three-year, $27 million deal with owner Michael Jordan. But Stephenson has struggled with his shot, and the Hornets are at 6-18 so far after finishing 44-38 last season for a No. 7 seed in the playoffs. Pacers owner Herb Simon says he’d welcome Stephenson back with open arms, but it’s not his decision to make.

Dec. 15 marks the beginning of the NBA’s trade season, which ends at the Feb. 19 deadline. So now players who were signed this past summer, including draft picks, can be dealt. Persistent rumors have Stephenson among those players getting shopped around by their teams.

Simon would love to have him back, and the Pacers could use his offense after Paul George broke his leg this summer and will likely miss the entire 2014-15 campaign. But, Simon also leaves basketball decisions up to those who control that area of the team.

The Pacers owner still couched his comments in common sense when speaking to the Indianapolis Star‘s Candace Buckner Buckner before last night’s 110-91 win over the visiting Lakers:

“I’d be OK with it but it’s not up to me. Larry (Bird) has to decide if he fits.”


“First of all, we don’t know if they’re really trading him, at least I don’t know,” Simon said about the Hornets. “I know they made some calls and we would have to (figure out) how he fits back into the team. Those are all basketball decisions and Larry and Kevin (Pritchard) are the best to answer that.

“We have the best basketball minds in Larry Bird and Kevin Pritchard and they’re working on it every minute of every day. So, something will happen.”

Stephenson had a career year during the 2013-14 season, recording an NBA-high four triple-doubles on his way to averaging a career high 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 35 minutes a night. He also shot over 35 percent from beyond the three-point arc and over 49 percent overall from the floor.

This season his shooting has fallen off a cliff, with Stephenson only connecting on 38.7 percent of his attempts and a dreadfully low 15.7 percent of shots from beyond the arc. Stephenson’s dribbling exhibitions along the perimeter slow the ball up, and he has been getting benched during the fourth quarter by coach Steve Clifford.

The Pacers, meanwhile, have struggled to score. They’re third to last in points per possession this season, and in the bottom five in effective field goal percentage and free throw attempts. They could use someone like Lance Stephenson to create on that end of the floor, even if he can also be a locker room albatross.

In Howard Beck’s trade column for Bleacher Report, Beck notes the words of one Eastern Conference executive about Stephenson: “He’s probably more likely than anybody [to be traded]. But as disruptive as he’s been, do you trade for him?”

If it were up the Pacers owner, they would, but we’re guessing Pritchard and Bird have a more nuanced answer to that question. Both have a first-hand account of what Stephenson can bring to the table as well as those things he takes off.

(Indianapolis Star)

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