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NBA - The dilemma that is Lance


PhilBoxing.com




CHARLOTTE -- The Hornets brought him in with hopes that he would make the Charlotte franchise a better team and go deeper into the post-season after last season's first-round elimination.

To say that the Stephenson trade has not gone well for both Lance and the Hornets is an understatement. For two consecutive games now Stephenson has not seen any action in the playing court due to the dreaded DNP-Coach’s Decision, while Charlotte is battling for dear life to get the final spot for the playoffs in the East.

After spending the first four years of his NBA career playing for the Pacers and a breakout performance last season, the Brooklyn native signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Hornets last summer — with the third year a team option. He gave up a Pacer offer that is equivalent in annual amount in the hopes of playing a bigger role with the Hornets.

But in stark contrast to his final year in a Pacer uniform where he had been a revelation being part of the Indiana core that gave the Heat all it could handle in three straight playoff losses, Stephenson is nothing but a disappointment this season as he went off the rails almost from his first game as a Hornet. He was a constant subject of numerous trade rumors leading up to trade deadline and has suffered various injuries that made him miss a number of games.

He is not the same player as he was in Indiana where he was a versatile, all around player that averaged at least 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 2013-14. Only three other players have managed to do that in that same season: Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Nicolas Batum. Stephenson was exactly the kind of do-it-all player then that a team like the Hornets needed. But that player seemed to have stayed in Indianapolis.

Stephenson's numbers have fallen off in almost every category. He’s averaging 8.3points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game this season,

Second-year Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, who allegedly lobbied hard for the trade to happen, said that the problem with the Lance situation is unfair expectation: everyone expected Lance to have grown into a leading role in the team by now.

“I think first of all, in some ways expectations were a little out of whack,” Clifford said. “I think secondly, he’s a young player, and unlike a guy like Mo Williams, who has played for seven coaches, seven systems and is used to adapting to new teammates and new cities, this is the first time. Lance played for one team, one coach with the same teammates for four years. … I think his injuries, though not significant, have hurt him from getting into the kind of rhythm he wanted to get into to play well.

But the woes for Lance have not abated and the lowest of low happened.

Wednesday night when the Hornets routed at home the visiting Detroit Pistons. He earned his second consecutive DNP-Coach’s Decision of the season. In that lopsided win, the entire Hornets bench played except Stephenson. He did not play Monday as well in a crucial loss to the Boston Celtics given the playoff implications that the game had for both teams, the first time he sat out a game by DNP-Coach’s Decision.

After that Boston loss, Lance has stated that he was upset not playing when he felt that he could have helped the team win. To his credit, Lance was professional enough to say that it's a coach's decision and his job is to keep a positive attitude.

But it cannot be denied that he must feel very disappointed as he sits and watches while seldom-used Jeff Taylor and rookie P.J. Hairston play ahead of him to take the place of injured starters Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller.

Clifford said Stephenson still has a chance to make an impact with the Hornets in the future, although he indicated he'll stick with the same rotation he used against the Celtics moving forward.

Notwithstanding this, Lance Stephenson doesn't regret his decision to sign with the Hornets as a free agent.

"Not at all," Stephenson said. "I love this system. I love my coaches. I love my teammates. Some people come into systems and fit right in. Some people it takes time. I feel like with me, I'm going to take time."

Clifford and the Hornets have taken a chance on signing Stephenson and it has obviously fallen short of their expectations so they may be right on benching him now, if that would help the team, to cut their losses, so to speak.

Hope springs eternal though for both parties as Lance is only 24 years old and he will be on an expiring contract next season for the Hornets. We’ve witnessed a better version of Stephenson before and for his sake and the Hornets’, we hope that that version will reappear in Charlotte, quickly.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Ananias Diaz.


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