Things have not according to plan since Lance Stephenson spurred the Pacers in free agency this summer to sign with Charlotte. The new-look Hornets are 8-19 so far and Stephenson has been the subject of trade rumors with a number of teams, and his old team’s owner wants him back in Indiana. According to a report by the Boston Globe‘s Gary Washburn, Stephenson has “clashed with teammates” in Charlotte, which is why they’re looking to unload him before the Feb. 19 trade deadline.
Via the Boston Globe:
While the Hornets are looking to make changes after a poor start for a team expected to make the playoffs, there is no certainty they will move recently signed Lance Stephenson, whose time in Charlotte has been disappointing at best. According to league sources, Stephenson has clashed with teammates, and coach Steve Clifford has placed the onus of Stephenson’s adjustment on the team’s veteran players, hoping they could police themselves and convince Stephenson to become more of a team player. Stephenson may become a more attractive piece near the Feb. 19 trade deadline, but the Hornets would want value in return.
The oldest Hornet player who also contributes enough on the floor to really command respect in the locker room would be Al Jefferson, but we doubt he has the time, or the patience, to suffer any foolishness from Stephenson. Lance is an unusual talent, but we always wondered how his personality would mesh without Larry Bird offering guidance from upstairs.
Stephenson’s on/off numbers are pretty atrocious this year, but so are most Hornets — Al Jefferson’s net rating is minus-10.0, which is actually worse than Stephenson’s minus-8.9.
After shooting a career high 49.1 percent last season, Stephenson is at 38.6 through the first 27 games of the season. Every time Stephenson gets the ball on the perimeter, opposing defenders are daring him to pop it — he’s shooting 15.1 percent from long-range after a respectable 35.2 percent last season — while crowding any potential driving lanes where Stephenson could force a rotation so he could use his passing skills.
So Stephenson usually reverts to a series of showy dribbling moves along that arc that slows the offense and allows the defense to get into position without never really shaking his defender.
But according to Washburn’s report, it’s not just his play that’s been the problem. If he’s clashing with teammates, it wouldn’t be the first time. Rumors have persisted Stephenson was the cause of internal strife in Indiana last year where the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference almost imploded enough before the playoffs to lose homecourt throughout. Then, that same Indiana team came within a couple missed buckets of getting upset by Atlanta in the first round, and the Wizards self-destructed at the end of Game 4 in the Conference Semifinals, or Indy could have lost that series, too. A weaker Miami team eventually eliminated them in six games in an Eastern Conference Finals rematch.
Not all of Indiana’s ills last season were Stephenson’s fault, but — while not necessarily acting as the focal point of Indy’s dive into mediocrity — he might have exacerbated the the poor dynamic of the team.
The accuracy of Washburn’s league sources is unknown, but there’s too much that’s been floating around about the albatross Stephenson has become during his brief time in Charlotte to discount what he’s reporting, either.
Brooklyn’s Born Ready seems to be on the trading block because of his off- and on-court performance so far this year. But we’re not sure another team will take a flier on him and the remaining three years and $27 million that he’s owed after signing for that amount in Charlotte this past summer. If he really is causing problems in Charlotte, after a fractious time in Indiana, what team would be willing to take on that sort of expensive baggage?
Who would, or should, trade for Stephenson?
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