It came as quite a surprise that Lance Stephenson took a three-year, $27 million deal from the Charlotte Hornets instead of what the Indiana Pacers offered, but even for someone who isn’t the most conventional player and thinker, there’s a lot of sense to this decision.
Financially, it does make sense. In terms of average per year, Stephenson will make $9 million instead of the $8.8 million he received as an offer from the Indiana Pacers. However, this is about his next contract. Considering his age and upside, Stephenson will now be eligible for a new deal when he’s 26, and not 28. In short, it means a chance for more money and bigger deals in whatever is left of his NBA career.
Stephenson read the map of the NBA free agency market wrong early on. He wasn’t going to get paid more than $8-9 million a season by anyone, despite hoping for $11-12 million. It’s always hard to say where these guys get these ideas: Themselves, their agents, family members and friends. Stephenson should have known that despite showing another season of progress, his antics during the Eastern conference finals hurt his chances of getting a big payday.
I took him some time, but he realized it. He could have signed a three-year deal with the Pacers for the same amount. However, it’s quite obvious there’s more to this than just money. He felt slighted by not being offered the kind of money he thinks he deserves. He might also feel that his chances of being a leader of a group are much greater on a new team, and the Hornets do make sense for him in that way.
There’s also the dressing room situation in Indiana. We’ve heard about a thousand rumors – Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, Paul George. Cheating girlfriends and betrayed friends, fights in practice, chemistry falling apart. Stephenson might have had something to do with it. We don’t really know the real story, but it doesn’t matter. The Hornets sat down with Stephenson and decided the stories don’t matter – they like who they see.
In two years, the Hornets make two big free agency moves. Signing Al Jefferson to help them make the playoffs and now adding Stephenson, negating the loss of Josh McRoberts to the Miami Heat. This team is being built nicely. Maybe not a contender yet, but good things are happening to a franchise that until recently seemed to be stuck in a spiral of failure that wasn’t going to end.