Lance Stephenson in ‘strong talks’ to join Pacers if he can get out of China contract

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Lance Stephenson has hoped that a strong season in China — averaging 26.7 points per game on 52 percent shooting for the Liaoning Flying Leopards — would springboard him back to the NBA.

It may have, all the way back to Indiana. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

There is a fit with Stephenson to return to the team where he spent the first four years of his career. With Jeremy Lamb going down with a torn ACL and more, the Pacers could use more depth behind Victor Oladipo at the two, especially with Oladipo still being on a minutes restriction.

All of this requires Stephenson to be freed from his Chinese contract, and that is not a simple matter.

American players who signed with teams in the Chinese Basketball Association this season are stuck. Back on Feb. 1 the CBA suspended play due to the COVID-19 outbreak in that nation, where there are currently more than 80,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 deaths. While the league has talked about restarting play on Apr. 1, all of that is up in the air as China continues to work to contain the virus.

American players from that league, such are Jeremy Lin, were sent home (none tested positive for the disease). Those players are still technically under contract, but they have not been paid since Feb. 1 and have been left in limbo by FIBA, which has not ruled on their contracts.

Stephenson joins a number of players who want the ability to pursue other opportunities — these guys are not getting checks right now. It’s been an increasing issue, and FIBA has done nothing as of yet.

Maybe a more high-profile case dealing with an NBA team, in the case of Lance Stephenson, will push FIBA to act. Or not. It’s FIBA.

Stephenson will be pushing for it, he wants to get back on the court in Indiana.