According to reports from Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and ESPN's Marc Stein, the Charlotte Hornets do indeed have interest in moving Lance Stephenson when he becomes trade eligible on Monday, December 15:
Charlotte, Indiana had preliminary conversations on possible return of Lance Stephenson, but talks haven't gone far, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 14, 2014
Story going online now: Lance Stephenson becomes trade-eligible Monday and ESPN sources say Hornets indeed on the hunt to find trade partner— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 14, 2014
Per both reports, one of the team's targeted trade partners is none other than the Indiana Pacers (the other is reportedly the Brooklyn Nets). Depending upon which spin one chooses to believe, Stephenson chose to take a chance on himself in Charlotte (accepting a shorter deal) when the Pacers refused to raise the per year value on their 5-year/$44 million offer and instead began to pursue other free agents.
Now only 23 games into the season, it appears that the NBA meme muse may have already outworn his welcome in Charlotte. Since joining the Hornets, the 24-year old has struggled to find his shooting touch, connecting on just 16.7% of his shots from behind the arc. Benched in the fourth quarters of several contests, rumors have again swirled about his trying personality:
Also told me that, from the start, folks in Charlotte started to realize in Lance they'd bitten off more than they'd planned on chewing.— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) November 27, 2014
Was told a few weeks ago Lance Stephenson, not Paul George or anyone else, impacted Hibbert so negatively last season. Looking accurate.— Bill Reiter (@foxsportsreiter) November 27, 2014
Stephenson should not solely be blamed for Indiana's second half swoon or Charlotte's slow start. However, given that he is the common denominator of each team's respective struggles, there is some legitimate cause for trepidation about re-acquiring the former Pacer wing.
Wojnarowski's report seems to indicate that feelings around the Pacers are mixed about whether the organization should work on bringing back Lance:
Charlotte reached out to Indiana on a potential Stephenson deal and has been pushing to generate an ongoing conversation, sources said. Indiana knows there's significant trepidation about Stephenson around the league, and knows him better than anyone. They've acted with little urgency on the matter, understanding they would own all the leverage in talks on Stephenson, league sources said.
Indiana offered Stephenson a four-year deal to re-sign over the summer, but he chose the shorter contract with Charlotte. The Pacers had a support system surrounding Stephenson that allowed for the combustible guard to have success there, but he's still a polarizing figure within the organization and a wide-range of opinions exist internally about bringing him back. Nevertheless, Pacers president Larry Bird has always been partial to Stephenson's talent.
Exactly what moving parts would be included in a trade package for Stephenson remain unclear, as Yahoo's report only specifies that Indiana remains reluctant to "seriously engage the Hornets without the inclusion of a first round pick in a potential deal."
Of course, giving up any assets for a player who allegedly was rumored to be a "selfish dude" and sometimes was not involved in player meetings called to discuss the Pacers' struggles seems to be a steep price to pay.
Additionally, there was that disconcerting report from Real GM's Shams Charania which indicated that Lance's representation was urging the Pacers to waive players in order to get their client more money (not exactly good for team building):
Before Stephenson had committed to Charlotte, his representatives had recognized his successful growth with the Indiana Pacers and a desire to stay. Move a salary off the books, move a player here or there and keep your homegrown talent, Stephenson's management team urged the Pacers' front office. With the ability to shed part or all of Luis Scola's and Donald Sloan's contracts, people involved in negotiations brought up scenarios to remove those deals to create an increased Year 1 and Year 2 salary for Stephenson in a deal with Indiana. Suggestions went unanswered, without execution.
All of this again raises an earlier posed question: Why would the Pacers consider bringing Lance back after they let him go?
Indiana did not replace Lance Stephenson with greater or even equal talent when they signed Rodney Stuckey. However, inking the new Pacer to a one-year approximately $900,000 contract, they most assuredly got the better bargain and, more importantly, they kept salary space available for next summer.
It is time to move on from Born Ready.