The Lance Stephenson era in Charlotte was a disaster. He went from shooting 49.1 percent his last season in Indiana to 37.6 percent in Charlotte. His defense wasn’t the same. As a good snapshot, his PER fell from 14.6 in Indy to a “he should be in the D-League” 8.8. He was being shopped by the middle of last season.
He landed this summer in a potentially great spot with the Los Angeles Clippers, but that doesn’t make getting traded by Michael Jordan any fun.
Stephenson talked about that and much more with Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling in a fantastic interview worth reading.
“Yeah, definitely it hurt me (getting traded by Jordan). I felt like I could’ve done more for the organization, I felt like we had pieces, and we just couldn’t get over that hump. There were a lot of injuries, a lot of things that just held us back from having a successful season….
“(Jordan) was communicating with me, telling me to keep a positive head even though I had a rough year. This was one of the roughest seasons—injuries, not getting my spot back. I felt like I could help this squad, but it just didn’t go the way I planned it to go. It’s a good learning experience and it really humbled me, because when you have high expectations, you feel like you’re that guy. It made me feel like, “Hey, you’ve got to keep working. Never stop grinding. Don’t take this stuff for granted because playing basketball is a blessing and you’re getting paid for it.”
Stephenson said that he and Kemba Walker didn’t blend well because they were too similar in style, both wanted the ball in their hands. That could be an issue with Chris Paul on the floor for the Clippers, but you could see Stephenson leading the second unit with the ball in his hands more.
The real question is off the court with Stephenson — how will he impact the chemistry of a team trying to get that right now after DeAndre Jordan’s free agency and what that brought to the surface. Stephenson continues to say his off-the-court issues are overblown.
“You can ask any of the guys that I played with. When I’m on the floor, I want to win. They know how I am. If I yell at them, it’s just because I want to win. They’re not looking at me like, “Lance is an assh–e.” Some people are intimidated to come up to me because of the way I play.”
I expect we will see a bounce-back season from Stephenson, he will be key to the Clippers’ improved bench. And if he gets the chance to blow in LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs again, that would mean the Clippers are in the Finals, and they will be good with it.