The 2014-2015 NBA season has so far been a major disappointment for the Charlotte Hornets and individually for Lance Stephenson, a major offseason free agent signing who is now being placed on the trading block if the usual slew of anonymous sources are to be believed.
Stephenson, signed for $27 million over three years (but only the first two are guaranteed) is averaging 10.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5 assists per game while shooting an abysmal 38.9% from the field and 16.7% from beyond the arc. Nothing from his shooting and big-game expertise he gained during his time with the Indiana Pacers, a team that offered him $44 million over five seasons, has translated into the same for the Hornets.
Charlotte, coming off their second playoff appearance since the franchise came to life back in the city under a different name (and now also has the history of the late 80’s expansion team back), were expected to challenge for one of the top spot in the East. Instead, they’ve gone 6-17 through the first 23 games, including losing 12 of the last 14 games. There are other problems on this team, but the biggest one has been the inability to include Stephenson in an offense that can’t space and open up the floor.
Steve Clifford mentioned that Stephenson is under too much pressure because he was labeled as a star when coming from Indiana, something he clearly isn’t. It’s not quite clear how that made things better. The 27-point loss to the Brooklyn Nets, another team trying to break up their ultra-expensive package apart, seems to be something of a threshold being crossed. Some suggest the Hornets are willing to trade everyone except for Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson.
The Hornets know that Stephenson hasn’t done anything this season to warrant the money he’s being paid, but $9 million a season won’t be that much money on the salary cap with it being constantly raised, not to mention the new TV deal kicking in. The best part? Stephenson isn’t guaranteed on his third season, which might help the Hornets move him, although they won’t do it without getting something besides offloading him in this deal.
Only 23 games, so we might be jumping the gun, and yet it’s already easy to say what an arrogant fool Stephenson was. He had a good thing going in Indiana but let his ego and his decision making get to him, turning down a five-year offer worth $44 million thinking he’ll be valued a lot more in three years time. Maybe he’ll prove everyone wrong, traded or not, but right now, it doesn’t seem like the person who made a buffoon out of himself in last year’s playoffs is living up to the expectations.