At the trade deadline, the Hornets couldn’t give Lance Stephenson away. Their marquee signing of last offseason was a complete disaster when taken away from Indiana and Larry Bird, and they seemed to be stuck with the remaining year and $9 million in guaranteed money on his contract. Now, they might finally have a taker in the Clippers.
In a high-risk, high-reward move, the Los Angeles Clippers are discussing a deal with theCharlotte Hornets to acquire guard Lance Stephenson, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Clippers would send forwards Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes to the Hornets, sources said. Talks have been ongoing for several days, but the proposed deal is yet to be considered imminent.
The appeal in this trade for the Clippers is obvious. Hawes signed a four-year, $23 million contract last summer, killing the Clippers’ flexibility and barely cracking the rotation. They would love to get out of that long-term money. Bringing on Stephenson is an obvious risk. The Hornets hoped they would get the version of “Born Ready” that became an important wing defender and playmaker for the Pacers in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, but his production fell off a cliff this year in Charlotte.
He would be a reclamation project for Doc Rivers, who would be banking on the idea that his reputation and championship pedigree will be enough to get the best out of Stephenson on the court while mitigating the off-the-court headaches that come with him. Part of the reason Stephenson was so successful in Indiana was the presence of Bird, and even the Pacers balked at the idea of giving him a long-term deal. But if the Clippers re-sign DeAndre Jordan to the five-year, $100-plus million contract he’s expected to command in free agency, they won’t have much room, if any, to add depth. If they can shed Hawes’ long-term money to take a one-year flier on Stephenson, whose 2016-17 salary is a team option, it’s worth a look.
For the Hornets, getting rid of Stephenson at all costs seems to be the objective here. Taking back Hawes isn’t deal, but he might be more productive in a different environment, and his salary isn’t completely untradeable if it doesn’t work out.