Lance Stephenson turned down a $44 million offer from the Indiana Pacers, for a shorter and less lucrative deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Pacers president Larry Bird still hasn’t gotten over Born Ready’s stunning departure. Per USA Today:
Stephenson’s people wanted more, wanted $12 million to $14 million from the Pacers, according to the team’s president. They were looking for a $55 million contract. When the offer came in at $44 million, they scoffed.
Except that according to Bird, the Pacers were willing to offer a shorter-term contract that would have given Stephenson the chance to cash in should his game continue to grow the way both he and Bird believe it will. The Pacers were also willing, however grudgingly, to give Stephenson a player option after four years of a five-year contract so that he could opt-out and test the market once the cap money increased.
“I really feel bad about losing him,” Bird said. “I hope it doesn’t interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here. Even if he didn’t have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid. If you look at our roster, we have five or six guys in the last year of their deals, plus David (West) and Roy (Hibbert) can opt out, so don’t you think I wanted to keep Lance and Paul (George) locked into long-term deals?”
“It’s just disappointing,” Bird said. “When I’d go to practices, when he was on, he was by far our best player. And he worked. If you work as hard as he does, you’re going to get better. I’m going to miss the kid, no question. And he’s growing up. That stuff he pulled in the playoffs, that was out of the blue. But I knew how good Lance was and the value he brought to our team.”