The Clippers agreed to a trade with the Hornets that will have Lance Stephenson in place on the roster to start the 2015-16 season.
But they could have had him much sooner than that.
L.A. reportedly had a similar deal in place with Charlotte last season, but Doc Rivers ultimately decided to stand pat.
Does Doc Rivers the Clippers’ president of basketball operations believe that Doc Rivers the Clippers’ coach can handle Lance Stephenson?
That is presumably one of the many questions Rivers was forced to ask himself as he sat in his office on Monday mulling a trade that was on his table and essentially up to him to accept or veto. The Charlotte Hornets had already agreed to ship Stephenson to Los Angeles in exchange for Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes. It was up to Rivers, both the president and coach, to decide if it was worth it.
Charlotte tried to pull off a similar trade with the Clippers last season, sources say, before Rivers backed out.
It’s easy to understand why the Clippers would hold off on making a move like this in the middle of the season.
Stephenson can be a tough fit from a personality standpoint, and reportedly clashed with his teammates in Charlotte. It’s one of the reasons the Hornets looked to move him midway through his first season with the team, after they signed him to a three-year deal as a free agent the previous summer.
L.A. viewed itself as a championship-caliber squad, and it wasn’t going to make a risky move that could potentially derail its season. Now, however, it’s become clear that the Clippers need to upgrade their roster, so making the move in advance of next year’s campaign makes a lot more sense.
If it ends up not working out, it’s still a good deal for Los Angeles from a salary cap perspective. Hawes fell out of the rotation entirely, and would have been on the books for another three seasons. Stephenson’s deal, however, is only guaranteed for next year, with the team holding the option for the season after that.