Lance Stephenson Signs with Charlotte Hornets for 2014-15 NBA Season, Declares 'I'm a great player' in Press Conference
Lance Stephenson officially signed with the Charlotte Hornets, leaving behind his Eastern conference finals team, the Indiana Pacers.
Stephenson created quite a buzz on the court this past NBA season, leading the NBA in triple-doubles, but his antics on and off the court drew the most attention. The Pacers were the best team in the league the first half of the season and much of that seemed to be due to their tight chemistry together. However, leading into the All-Star break, Stephenson thought he was 'snubbed' not making the team and the whole dynamic of the Indiana team shifted the second half of the season. Their chemistry seemed torn apart and much of that reportedly had to do with Lance being divisive in the locker room. His antics publicly came to a head when he blew in Lebron James ear during the Eastern conference finals, which has become one of the most parodied image and video in sports.
The Pacers did try to keep the 23-year-old guard on their roster moving forward, but Lance decided to start a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets. In his introductory news conference Friday, Lance admitted that he's "a little upset" that the ear-blowing incident in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Miami has defined him as a player.
"I feel like it overshadowed my play on the court," Stephenson said. "I bring more to the table than just blowing in someone's ear. I'm a great player."
Stephenson's contract with the Hornets is a three-year deal for $27 million. The deal includes a team option for the third season.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford did his research on Stephenson, even talking to Stephenson's high school coaches and he felt good enough to bring him into a locker room that boasted great chemistry last season.
"What's the old saying? 'Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness,'" Clifford said. "I think those things are a byproduct of the fact that he badly wants to win. To be honest, that is one of the things we all liked about him so much."
Hornets owner Michael Jordan addressed those issues with Stephenson in a meeting Tuesday night in Las Vegas. "He (Jordan) talked to him about what we can work on -- and [Stephenson] knows that," Clifford said. "Lance knows that sometimes he has crossed the line a little bit. But I think he does it out of competitiveness."
"He loves my game and what I bring to the table," shared Stephenson of the meeting with Jordan. "He loves that I'm a great passer and I play with my teammates, and he loves the competitive edge that I have."
Lance did address the ear-blowing incident sharing, "During the series I was trying to play hard against LeBron and help my team win," Stephenson said. "I'm very competitive, and I know some of the antics were over the border -- but I was just trying to do whatever it takes to win."
This is the Hornet's second straight year landing a big-name free agent signing Al Jefferson last summer. They made the playoffs last season and hope to improve on that this year with the addition of Stephenson.