Another NBA season, another Pelicans’ team ravaged by injuries. The latest was Lance Stephenson, who had come to camp without a promise (after he couldn’t land a deal this summer), made the squad, and played well for the team to start the season on a non-guaranteed contract. However, he suffered a torn groin muscle that will require surgery.
Releasing an injured player is not common around the NBA and the Kings’ Matt Barnes went off on it on Instagram.
New Orleans saw things differently. The team was down to 11 healthy players (not enough to dress a full team), they had a full roster of 15 and couldn’t just add a free agent player, Stephenson was on a non-guaranteed deal (just a $100,000 guarantee), and this was the move they had to make. Marc Stein of ESPN put the Pelicans’ side forward.
Remember that Jrue Holiday is away from the team caring for his newborn baby as well as wife Lauren, who recently had a brain tumor removed. Nobody is pressuring him to return, but he is not injured.
Barnes is right, the NBA can be a cold-hearted business. Players can be that way with teams, but more often it’s teams with non-star players, treating them like replaceable parts. It can suck. It’s also the business, one for which NBA players are well compensated.
Between this season and his performance at times last year, Stephenson will get another chance somewhere when healthy. I can understand why Stephenson — or Barnes — don’t like the optics on this, but so long as they are true to their word about helping his rehab and getting him right, well, it’s the way things go sometimes.