Larry Bird’s high praise for Lance Stephenson

  • Andy Flint

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Lance Stephenson’s overall character has come into question for as long as anyone can remember. It’s clear that he’s a talented athlete, and on some nights he even appeared to be the best player on the court. In a league that has brought together the best basketball players on the planet and some of the best athletes in the history of mankind, Lance standing out, even if only in spurts, really says something about this guy’s talent.

It really makes you wonder what in the heck is going on. Why would Stephenson slightly more cash on a shorter deal, to play for a team with less talent? Remember, the Pacers offered Lance a five-year deal, worth a guaranteed $44 million. The deal Lance accepted from the Hornets is a three-year deal, worth a total of $27 million. The big catch is that Charlotte has a team option after year two, so Lance is actually only guaranteed $18 million. Do the math. Stephenson left his home, and the team who finished number one in the east last season, for less security, and a $200 grand more per season…. with a team that finished seventh overall in the same conference as the Pacers. Sounds crazy enough to me.

The worst part? It wasn’t like the Pacers were trying to low ball Stephenson. They felt like their offer gave Lance fair cash (roughly $8.8 million per) and the security of knowing he had a job, as a starter, for the next five seasons. Pacers’ president of basketball operations, and NBA legend, Larry Bird, seemed very disappointed about Lance’s departure.

“I really feel bad about losing him,” Bird said. “I hope it doesn’t interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here. Even if he didn’t have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid. If you look at our roster, we have five or six guys in the last year of their deals, plus David (West) and Roy (Hibbert) can opt out, so don’t you think I wanted to keep Lance and Paul (George) locked into long-term deals?”

Bird went on to speak of how good he believes Lance Stephenson is and can be.

“It’s just disappointing,” Bird said. “When I’d go to practices, when he was on, he was by far our best player. And he worked. If you work as hard as he does, you’re going to get better. I’m going to miss the kid, no question. And he’s growing up. That stuff he pulled in the playoffs, that was out of the blue. But I knew how good Lance was and the value he brought to our team.”

The real issues appears to be that somebody convinced Stephenson that he was worth more like $12 to $14 million per season, rather than the $8.8 million Indiana felt comfortable with giving him. The real head-scratcher was when Stephenson took shorter-term deal, for roughly the same amount of cash per season. The feeling is that the cap will rise, and Lance will be in for a bigger payday, but that seems risky!

Either way, the Hornets land a solid free agent, on their terms, and could be headed towards a very solid 2014-15 NBA season.

 

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