Lance Stephenson did not have a very good weekend. The Charlotte Hornets have been struggling all season and Stephenson has found himself at the center of a lot of blame. He's a controversial figure and hasn't fit in well with the team this season so it makes sense to see blame get thrown his way. Except it goes deeper than that as things continue to get worse for Stephenson.
Stephenson suffered a groin injury during the Hornets loss to the Phoenix Suns last Wednesday, causing him to sit out the next few games. The Hornets have now won two straight games, albeit against bad teams, and have looked very good in both wins. Setting up the question, are the Hornets better without Lance Stephenson?
Then it got worse. According to a report from the Boston Globe, Stephenson has "clashed" with teammates this season.
"According to league sources, Stephenson has clashed with teammates, and coach Steve Clifford has placed the onus of Stephenson's adjustment on the team's veteran players, hoping they could police themselves and convince Stephenson to become more of a team player. Stephenson may become a more attractive piece near the Feb. 19 trade deadline, but the Hornets would want value in return."
This might explain why the Hornets wanted to trade Stephenson a month and a half into the season. If he's clashing with teammates, and wins aren't coming, then Charlotte would want to get rid of what they perceive to be part of why the losses are piling up. But maybe the Hornets are overreacting? Lets look at potential trade destination, Stephenson's former team, the Indiana Pacers.
Weekend Trade Rumble: Heard various Pacers were asked if Indy should try to bring Lance Stephenson back. Response NOT one of encouragement— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 22, 2014
That's Charlotte's challenge in trying to move Stephenson. Pacers were worn out by season's end & he had Hornets exasperated in record time— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 22, 2014
Oh dear. Well that's only one source. Lets check in with CBS's Ken Berger.
"The Hornets aren't having much luck drumming up quality offers for Lance Stephenson, who they signed to a three-year, $27.4 million deal this past summer. After winning 43 games last season and making the playoffs, Charlotte is an abysmal 7-19 -- and chemistry, or lack of it, is a big part of the problem. The Pacers have had high-level internal talks about making a play for Stephenson, sources say, but there's a lot of hesitation -- and for good reason."
Yeah, that makes sense. The Pacers did make an offer to Stephenson over the summer to try and keep him, but when he did not return nobody in Indiana seemed too broken up about it. It really doesn't make a lot of sense for Indiana to bring back a player that is now notorious for ruining locker room chemistry. Not unless they can swindle Charlotte out of a first round pick or better in the process, which Charlotte just doesn't want to do.
While Stephenson isn't the only problem with the Hornets, he's certainly been a part of it. Kemba Walker's shooting struggles is taking its toll on Charlotte, especially in late game situations, as does a general lack of execution from the team overall. The Hornets are ranked in the bottom 10 in both offense and defense this year and it's very doubtful that the addition of one player is the cause of it.
However, when things are bad and a team struggles, that's when locker room chemistry needs to be at it's strongest. If Stephenson is causing chemistry issues then there's no reason for Charlotte to keep him around. He is only adding fuel to a fire that is starting to get out of hand.