Report: Hornets exploring options for Lance Stephenson trades

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Starting Monday, the Charlotte Hornets will be allowed to trade Lance Stephenson, and they’ve been busy working the phones trying to find options. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting that they’re ready to cut bait with the talented but difficult guard if they can get the right deal:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Hornets, just 23 games into the Stephenson era, have already begun the process of searching for potential trade partners that would be willing to take the talented but enigmatic former Indiana Pacer off their‎ hands.

Although sources say no deal involving Stephenson is imminent, Monday is the first day that players signed to new contracts in July are eligible to be dealt, which typically triggers what teams leaguewide regard as “trade season” over the next two months leading into the annual February trade deadline.

One factor that could ultimately lead to a deal, despite Stephenson’s ragged and discouraging start, is the fact that the three-year, $27 million deal he received over the summer from Charlotte owner Michael Jordan is only guaranteed through next season. The third year of the deal is not guaranteed, which theoretically enhances Charlotte’s chances of finding another team willing to gamble ‎on the mercurial swingman.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski adds that the Hornets have had discussions with Stephenson’s former team, the Indiana Pacers, but those talks haven’t gone anywhere as of yet.

The Nets and Clippers have also kicked the tires but nothing is imminent there, either.

If they’re already talking about moving Stephenson before he can be traded, it seems likely that he will end the season somewhere other than Charlotte. His trade market will be interesting going forward—he’s an extremely talented two-way player, but he has been inconsistent his entire career and whispers of chemistry issues in Indiana might give teams pause.

An Indiana return is an interesting concept. Stephenson has been very vocal throughout his career about his appreciation for Pacers president Larry Bird, who stuck with him through some troubled early seasons. The Pacers have a few contracts that could match Stephenson’s salary (George Hill, David West) but neither of those players really moves the needle for Charlotte.

The Clippers are more intriguing. They desperately need help on the wing, and Stephenson would be an upgrade over Matt Barnes. But Doc Divers has been intent on building a strong culture there in the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal, and adding a personality as volatile as Stephenson could disrupt their chemistry.

It doesn’t seem like anything is going to happen this week on the Stephenson front, but this will be a situation worth monitoring ahead of February’s trade deadline.