LAS VEGAS — Charlotte had what is considered one of the stronger, more professional locker rooms in the NBA last season. Veteran big man Al Jefferson and his steady demeanor was a big part of that.
Now Lance Stephenson is being injected into that mix — and Jefferson is pumped about it.
“I’m excited about Lance,” Jefferson said in the hall outside the Hornets locker room at the Thomas & Mack Center, where he had shown up to watch Charlotte eliminate New York from the Summer League tournament. “We’re all going to be on the same page as far as defense, and defense dictates the offense.
“But Lance is a playmaker. That’s the reason he led the NBA in triple-doubles last year. He’s got this nastiness about his game that you want on your team. I was really excited to hear he signed with us and he wanted to do that. I think he’s got a lot to prove, and he wants to show people he can be a great superstar in this league.”
Jefferson, not a guy known as a defensive stalwart through his career, focused a lot on defense in his comments (and he played it better last year for Steve Clifford, too).
“We were sixth in the NBA in defense and that is the reason we had the success we had so we just got to continue to do all that,” Jefferson said of a Hornets (then Bobcats) team that won 43 games and made the playoffs.
The concern with Stephenson around the league and giving him big money is how that would impact his already questionable maturity issues. But the lack of a market for his services (compared to what he expected), Michael Jordan sitting him down and telling him to cut out the antics, and that solid locker room make Charlotte the perfect team to roll the dice in Stephenson.
In a wide open East, Charlotte is a very interesting team. Not a contender, but interesting.