The Charlotte Hornets swallowed up the last big fish in the 2014 free agency.
On June 9th Michael Jordan spoke about the Charlotte Hornets off season. “I always thought Charlotte was a great destination,” Jordan said. “Big Al has proven that you can come here and make a big difference. Hopefully we can look at that and attract some other superstars.” At approximately 5am EST Rick Bonnell broke the news that all of Charlotte had been waiting for:
The Charlotte Hornets will sign Lance Stephenson to a 3-year contract, the last season a team option, the Observer has learned.
— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) July 16, 2014
After missing out on Gordon Hayward, Jordan finally got his superstar.
The Charlotte Hornets agreed to sign Lance to a 3-year $27 Million dollar contract, with a team option for the third year. There are two major factors that stick out in this deal. First of all, Lance had already turned down a 5-year $44 Million dollar contract from the Pacers. That works out at around $8.8 million per year, with Charlotte he will be earning $9 million per year. Charlotte have managed to get Lance at almost the exact same price as Indiana, but for less years. If you also include the third year team option he has just two season of $18 Million guaranteed, if that isn’t an incentive to play well and stay out of trouble I don’t know what it. Lance literally left $18 million dollars on the table to come and sign with the Hornets, a sign he likes what he heard during the negotiations with the organization.
The majority of people thought Lance was seeking the $10-12 per year range, the truth is he probably was. Once Lance said no to the Pacers and explored other options it would be very hard for him to go back to Indiana. It is highly possible that General Manager Rich Cho reached out to Stephenson late in the free agency process in a very deliberate manner. After LeBron signed in Cleveland the dominoes began to fall. The number of Stephenson’s suitors dwindled after the Lakers, Mavericks & Bulls all filled their rosters with other free agents. Fast forward to July 16th and the only team left with sufficient CAP space and a need for a shooting guard was Charlotte, checkmate. Or as the table tennis playing Rich Cho would say “Game, set and match”.
We should also be aware that it may be Stephenson’s own ego that made him take a deal with only two years of guaranteed money. Lance may feel that by then he will be in line for a big pay day, especially with the new TV agreement to be agreed upon during that year which will increase the size of contracts throughout the league. However, right now that works in Charlotte’s favour as it keeps them nicely under the cap to make one or two other moves. Yahoo Sports Adrian Wojnarowski last night reported the Hornets were likely to make a bid on Carlos Boozer who is currently on waivers after being amnestied by the Chicago Bulls.
Personally, I was never a big advocate of Stephenson becoming a Hornet. I felt his on/off court drama would bring an unwanted negative media spotlight on Charlotte, I still feel this way now. However, the amount of money and number of years is less than what I thought it would be, at some point you just have to recognise a good deal when you see one. With Stephenson being the only real difference maker left in free agency, Charlotte had little choice but to make a splash. If they hadn’t, the entire fan base would have felt like the team had taken a step backwards after the most successful year in franchise history. With the re-launch of the Hornets and a huge increase in season tickets sales, merchandise and social media activity, it was important for Charlotte to carry last years positive momentum forward. For now, the Stephenson signing looks to achieve that goal. However, if Stephenson falls out with management, Michael Jordan will once again be left with pie on his face as another “desperate” signing backfires.