Lance Stephenson, who blew into LeBron James’ ear during a playoff game, drawing criticism from around the NBA, blew $17 million by signing with the Charlotte Hornets instead of re-signing with the Indiana Pacers.
Stephenson apparently considered the Pacers’ five-year, $44 million offer an insult and instead signed on with the Hornets for a deal worth $27 million, according to league sources.
The mercurial swingman met with Hornets owner Michael Jordan, general manager Rich Cho, head coach Steve Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. The move ends Stephenson’s productive yet controversial time in Indiana.
Stephenson, who led the league in triple-doubles, felt the Pacers’ offer was “low ball.”
The Charlotte contract pays him $200,000 more per year, but the overall value is much lower than what Indiana offered him. At the end of the day, he left $17 million in guaranteed money on the table.
There is a chance this could end up being a smart move for Stephenson. He will be just 26 when his contract with the Hornets is up in the summer of 2017. With the salary cap set to skyrocket in the wake of the league’s new TV rights deals, Stephenson could be well positioned to cash in if he continues to grow as a player.
“Reports throughout the negotiation process with Indiana have often strayed from the truth, but suffice it to say that it was less about the money,” Stephenson’s agent Alberto Ebanks said in a statement. “Lance will miss the city, the team and the mentor who helped transform him into the dynamic player he has become. He looks forward to making a strong contribution and beginning a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets. … While we tried our best to come to the best possible terms for both sides, there was not sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract, particularly the length of the contract.”
The Pacers were unwilling to offer Stephenson a shorter deal, spanning two or three years, sources said. Indiana was also unwilling to increase its offer.
Stephenson, who challenged James in the regular season and fought with teammate Evan Turner in practice, would have signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks for $20 million had the Houston Rockets matched the Mavs’ offer to Chandler Parsons. But the Rockets let Parsons go, opening the way for Jordan and the Hornets.
Like many teams, the Hornets, while fans of Stephenson’s play, had concerns about his antics and attitude. But sources say those concerns were alleviated in Tuesday’s face-to-face meeting.