Following the trade of Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers this summer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before Stephenson said something about his time in Charlotte. Really, Stephenson's season and the Hornets' season were so disastrous that it was inevitable that he was going to be asked about his time in Charlotte. At first, to some surprise, it seemed Stephenson was going to take the high road.
According to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register, Stephenson opened up a little more about his time in Charlotte.
Lance on being cast as a star in CHA ""I was just sitting in the corner. That’s not trying to be a star. A star normally gets the ball."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) October 12, 2015
In Woike's follow-up article on Stephenson, he mentioned how Richard Cho had called him "one of the best young players in the league." In the same piece, Stephenson added, "I think the way they wanted me to be a star isn’t the way my game is." For all we know, this is correct. Maybe the team made promises they couldn't keep, but Stephenson was never going to come in immediately and become the number one option right away. Stephenson took fewer threes per 36 minutes than he did in Indiana, but were the Hornets supposed to tell a 17 percent three-point shooter to take more? Maybe Stephenson didn't like playing small forward as much as he did, but the team was injured, and stars have to step up from time-to-time. For an extreme example, look at what the Big Three Heat had to do in 2010; star players have to try to adapt for the benefit of the team sometimes.
The Stephenson signing is disappointing for a lot of reasons, but the Hornets being so high on bringing him in is certainly among them. And Stephenson commenting beyond saying 'It just wasn't a good fit' really highlights that.
The thing is, it seems that Stephenson was a star in his own mind. In Indiana, Stephenson averaged over nine points, four rebounds and three assists on 46.7 shooting in four years. Perhaps most of all, he was one of the few guys in the league at that point who could shutdown LeBron James. Stephenson ascending to stardom wasn't out of the picture for the once second round pick. Was he there, though? Probably not.
Stephenson's use of the word "star" when referring to himself in Charlotte was a little perplexing. When you average 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 37 percent shooting, the numbers don't scream "star." Unless you're post-2013 Kobe Bryant, you have to play more than 62 games, start more than 25 games, and average more than 25.8 minutes per game. What a player does in prior seasons doesn't ensure future status, and that's what appears to be the case here. Stars like James, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry know that you have to continue to prove yourself, and not rely on solely on past accomplishments.
Besides, if Stephenson wasn't happy with his touches playing next to Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, how is he going to reconcile sacrificing shots to Blake Griffin and Chris Paul? Doc Rivers is already talking about starting Wesley Johnson at small forward, and presumably J.J. Redick at shooting guard. Stephenson worked his way up Frank Vogel's rotation in Indiana from a second round pick to starter, and is going to have to earn it once again. That's not to say that he can't, or won't, but no one is just going to hand him the starting role underservingly.
From the start it seemed that the Hornets had buyer's remorse with Stephenson. It was in December of 2014 -- approximately four months after signing him -- that the Hornets were looking to move Stephenson already. When the Hornets couldn't, he quickly found himself out of Steve Clifford's favor for P.J. Hairston. Sure, some of the frustration with Stephenson was due to injury, and you can't prevent them altogether, but it sounded like it was more than that.
In all reality, the Stephenson signing was a miscalculation by a team that was looking to build on the momentum of a playoff run. The Hornets thought that they were getting a budding star, and was worth the risk at the time. No one thought that Stephenson's production would be so dismal, but there were other concerns over him that kept him on the market for as long as he was. Eventually, those concerns became realized.
It seemed that Stephenson and the Hornets had decided to move on from one another, mutually concluding that things just weren't going to work out. Honestly, it was nice to see Stephenson, now in a better situation, take the high road at first. Then came Monday afternoon's comments.