City Sports Report

Lance Stephenson Is Lost In Charlotte

It seems like the nightmare will never end as Stephenson is lost in Charlotte. (photo courtesy of www.hoopshabit.com)

Lance Stephenson was a key piece of the puzzle for the Indiana Pacers last season. Nicknamed Born Ready, he was everything and then some for the Pacers on both ends of the court. Stephenson averaged a career-high 13.8 points per game and was on his way to potentially becoming a budding superstar to some. But this past offseason he was a free agent and he had a decision to make. Does he come back to the Pacers or does he leave for greener pastures? Well, he made the decision to leave the Pacers and join the Charlotte Hornets. With the addition of Stephenson, it was thought the Hornets would be well on their way to making a push in the Eastern Conference. With his skills as a defender and the budding offensive skills Stephenson showed, many believed that he and Al Jefferson would be a great pairing. But unfortunately, things have not worked out the way Stephenson and the Hornets thought it would. He has seemingly regressed as a player on the court and seems to be out of sorts with his new team. His scoring average has dropped five points a game from last year and it seems as if he just is not the same guy he was in Indiana. But what happened for Born Ready to be stalled so much?

In Indiana, it seemed like when Danny Granger got injured, Stephenson got the opportunity to make some things happen. He took advantage of the additional playing time and grew into a frontline player for the Pacers in the 2013-2014 season. His confidence seemed to grow more and more as he got more time. And another thing that happened in Indiana is that head coach Frank Vogel allowed him to have the ball in his hands a lot. He was the main facilitator and ball-handler for the team last season in Indiana. And as a result, he averaged a career-high in assists along with a career-high in points last season. But in the switch from teams, his role was changed. Many expected him to be the wing player that scored the basketball for the Hornets and it has just not panned out that way. One of the main reasons he has not put up some of the same numbers he did with the Pacers last season is he isn’t handling the ball as much as he once was. Gone are the days where he was the main ball-handler because he has a point guard in Kemba Walker that is used to playing with the basketball in his hands. And as a result of that, Lance has had to play off the ball a little bit more this season. That has certainly stifled what kind of player he is and what he can contribute. Lance is a playmaker and not a guy that can just play off the ball as much as they require him to. He or the Hornets have to figure out a way to mix in him on the ball as opposed to being off it as much as he has been in Charlotte. If they do not figure out a way to involve him more on the basketball, then the Hornets will not get what they thought they paid for.

Another reason that Stephenson could potentially be stalling in Charlotte is his inconsistency shooting this season. Last season, Stephenson was shooting a career-high 49% from the field and 35% from the three-point line. It seemed like his midrange jump shot was consistent and he was stroking the three-point shot with confidence. One thing that helped that is the fact that he played with Paul George last season. More often times than not, Stephenson did not draw the best defender from the opposing team. And that also helped in his ascension last season. This season in Charlotte seems to be something that he may not have been as prepared for. Stephenson is drawing the best wing defender this season and as a result, he is having one of the worst shooting seasons of his career, especially from the three-point line (16% from behind the arc this season) and free throw line (62% from the free throw line). As a result, it seems as if he is not the same confident player that he once was with the Pacers. And it also seems like he is not the big factor that some thought he could be with the Hornets when he signed there. Going forward, Stephenson is going to have to find his confidence on the court. If he can get that going while the team makes the playoff push, then maybe he can salvage his first year in Charlotte. But if he cannot, then he stays as the circle peg trying to fit in the square hole.

Stephenson thought the grass was greener somewhere else when he signed with the Hornets. And it was expected that he would get it going eventually when he struggled out of the gate earlier this season. But as we can see, Stephenson’s game was obviously a better fit for the Pacers than it is currently for the Hornets. And as Stephenson is finding out, the system he played in and the comfort he had in it is something that cannot just be stumbled upon. After this season, the Charlotte Hornets may look to move Stephenson. The fit just has not worked out like the Hornets thought. And now he seems to be just a burden on the team contract-wise instead of an asset they thought they were obtaining. If Stephenson could have seen this coming, then maybe he would have stayed in Indiana to continue his growth. But instead he is somewhere brand new trying to find his game again. And unfortunately, he may not find it away from Indiana.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

One Comment

  1. ASR

    April 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Lance is finding out with a larger payday comes with responsibility and expectations. Now its time for him to produce, bottomline.

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