On Friday, the team officially introduced Lance Stephenson as a Hornet with GM Rich Cho by his side.
Stephenson: “It’s a new beginning for me.”
It’s well documented by now that this is a guy who has proved to be a bit immature on the court with some of his antics. Many question Stephenson’s character, and if it fits into any locker room within this league. I find myself asking the same question all the time. No one truly knows, but time will certainly reveal it. What cannot be questioned is Lance Stephenson’s talent and rare ability to impact the game in as many ways as he can. A true four-tool player that can score, rebound, pass, and defend at an above-average rate in this league is hard to come by, but now Charlotte has one, and just maybe a roster that’s fit to make a run at the eastern conference.
Rich Cho: “He’s (Stephenson) one of the best young players in the league. A big time competitor.”
Everyone seems to have a different opinion about Stephenson and whether or not this was a good move for the Hornets. The contract speaks for itself – rather low-risk in terms of only being for two guaranteed years (team option in third year). Will this guy add the missing element to Charlotte that’s going to make them a contender in the eastern conference? When mulling on-the-court production, I say yes. That being said, the key is going to lie in whether or not Stephenson is able to mesh with the senior leadership on this team – Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Walker and Stephenson have relationship ties from their days in New York during high school, which can be perceived as a positive, but a lot has changed since then.
There were so many question marks surrounding Stephenson, and it ends up being the reason that Charlotte gets him on what should ultimately be considered a discount. The potential future all-star now finds himself with a moderate length contract worth probably less than he believes he’s worth. With the new CBA due to be negotiated after the 2015-’16 season, and a projected avalanche of television money coming down the pipe, Stephenson has the opportunity to set himself up for life with his next contract. That opportunity falls under the umbrella of the greatest basketball player to ever live, Michael Jordan, and in the city of Charlotte.
Stephenson, an emotionally driven player with a passionate sting to his style, meets a starving fan-base that has been reinvigorated with the return of their beloved Charlotte Hornets. The two seem to demand very similar things – success and respect.
There is no question that Hornets fans will welcome ‘Born Ready’ with open arms, but will Stephenson reciprocate with the maturity and commitment to something bigger than himself for the Hornets?
So, for better, or for worse, welcome to the Lance Stephenson era in Charlotte everyone.