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Lance Stephenson bets on himself, leaves Pacers needing to ante up elsewhere

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The Pacers have a hole to fill in their backcourt after letting Lance Stephenson walk in free agency.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There you go. Lance Stephenson leaves the Indiana Pacers on good terms after the two sides couldn't agree to terms of a new contract. Lance is off to play for Michael Jordan with the Charlotte Hornets for a three-year, $27 million dollar deal.

The key difference in the deal is not the total per year, but the first-year difference of $1.3 million. Naturally, Lance's agent, Alberto Ebanks claims it wasn't about the money but the flexibility in years of the deal. Makes sense considering a new CBA in two years could generate far bigger money if Lance continues to improve.

The only goofy part in that plan is giving Charlotte the team option in year three. But that also reveals a bit about how little other options were out there. Plus, Lance has a chance to take over a lead role with the ball in his hands for the Bobcats. Regardless of the specifics, both the Pacers and Lance were prepared to part ways.

Adam Zagoria is always my go-to-man on issues involving Lance and his discussion with Ebanks this morning captured the mindset of Team Lance as they took the money from Charlotte and ran.

"The best part of this deal, the part that I feel strong about, is that he gets to re-enter free agency two years earlier and that's huge."

He added: "It shows that Lance is betting on himself, not against himself."

Ebanks said Charlotte owner Michael Jordan also played "a major role" in Stephenson's decision.

"You're sitting in a room and Michael Jordan is sharing his vision of what he thinks you can do for his organization, and you are a player that sees yourself as a player that has a very high ceiling and being able to compete at the very highest levels as a competitor and you realize that your vision is aligned with that of Michael Jordan," Ebanks said. "Your vision is a good vision."

According to Candace Buckner, the Pacers didn't have a chance to match and alter their five-year, $44 million offer. Of course, the way this thing played out, I'm sure both sides figured a counter wasn't worth the time. The Pacers had ample time to alter their offer. If they really wanted to pursue Lance and even feed his ego by adding a little more money, they would have.

But they didn't and now they need a guard of some sort to add depth to the backcourt. Prefereably, said guard would be a legit NBA starter so C.J. Miles can be used off the bench. A point guard would even allow George Hill to slide into a Swiss army knife role in the backcourt.

The level of effort the Pacers gave to bring back Lance indicates they must have a plan to address the roster without Lance. They were all in last year because they still had Lance and Paul George on rookie deals and the East was top heavy with Miami presenting the biggest challenge.

Now the East is wide open with several teams possibly emerging depending on how their season develops. The Pacers could slide down in a hurry if they don't add some talent to replace Lance or they could remain in the mix near the top of the heap. The Pacers weren't committed to the whole package of Lance, but he was part of a strong defensive unit and the team's best facilitator when he was thinking team instead of me.

So now we wait to see how Larry Bird will fill the space he just created.