With the ability to stretch contracts of cut players and rapidly rising salary cap, the Charlotte Hornets might prefer to cut their losses and release Lance Stephenson, who has been a complete and utter failure for them this season.
As you might remember, Stephenson turned down a $44 million, five-year contract offer from the Indiana Pacers in order to sign a three-year, $27 million deal with the Hornets, thinking that by the time the 2016-2017 comes and with it the huge rise in salary cap due to the new, increased TV money, he’s going to cash in big time.
But Stephenson thought a bit too highly of himself. He forgot that he might not be the superstar a lot of people have been whispering to him that he is over the years. He forgot that he had a lot to do with the Pacers losing yet again to the Miami Heat in the playoffs despite home court advantage. He figured that getting criticized for his behavior on the court by Frank Vogel and Larry Bird is insulting, and felt like punishing the Pacers by leaving.
For the Pacers it was a blow because they couldn’t sign someone who could contribute like Stephenson and worked well within that system. But Stephenson needed that system as well. In Charlotte, it’s been an utter disaster, averaging 8.3 points while shooting 37.7% from the field. A starter to begin the season, he’s dropped to 26.4 minutes a night, and the Hornets played their best basketball this season during his injury phase.
Right now? They’re not even playing him. Head coach Steve Clifford is trying to make the playoffs somehow (11th in the East right now) and is also finding it difficult to say nice things about Stephenson. Maybe an offseason of working on his game might be beneficial for both him and the team, but from the way things work in Charlotte, they might not have the patience for him to come around.
Sometimes team get better by subtraction, and it seems that for everyone involved, buying out Stephenson’s contract sooner rather than later will be good for both sides.