Jul 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT
Did Stephenson lose free agency? Not necessarily.
[MORE: Summer League review]
He’ll earn more per year in Charlotte than he would have in Indiana, $9 million vs. $8.8 million, and he’ll hit free agency again sooner. (Stephenson also has a $9,405,000 team option in the contract’s third year, according to ShamSports.com.)
Stephenson is essentially betting on himself, that he’ll command a bigger contract in three years than he would have gotten by locking in long-term with the Pacers now.
That’s a risk, but a defensible one. Stephenson is a great fit in Charlotte, where Steve Clifford values defense and needs Stephenson’s offensive firepower. And the salary cap might skyrocket with a new television deal. All contracts might be substantially larger in 2017.
[RELATED: Top seven free agents still on market]
But left in the dust, Larry Bird is trying to spin his version of events.
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.
“I really feel bad about losing (Lance Stephenson) him,” (Larry) 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?”
Just read this part again: “Even if he didn’t have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid.”
Bird did a lot for Stephenson, drafting him and helping him grow up. Without Bird, Stephenson might be out of the NBA right now.
But committing to $44 million because you believe in him? Give me a break.
Bird offered $44 million, because he believed that provided the Pacers value within their limitations (likely remaining under the luxury tax). If he believed Stephenson’s best offer would be a minimum contract, Bird sure wasn’t offering Stephenson $44 million.
No matter how the Pacers try to come out smelling like roses, they declined to offer Stephenson enough money to keep him. Even if Bird thought $44 million over five years was enough, it wasn’t.
Stephenson wanted a bigger contract or flexibility go get one soon. Bird wouldn’t or couldn’t deliver that, so Stephenson left. It’s that simple.
Spare me the spin about Bird believing in Stephenson.
Stephenson believed in himself more than Bird believed in him, and that’s why the Hornets have a new guard. Maybe Stephenson will regret that, but he didn’t owe Bird re-signing in Indiana because that $44 million was a kind act out of the goodness of Bird’s heart.
Bird was playing the game – just like Stephenson did.
- Elimination game Josh Smith is a thing, Rockets live to play another day 0
- Rockets show it’s better to have James Harden than to not have Stephen Curry 3
- Stephen Curry leaves game after taking a hard fall, cleared to return (VIDEO) 6
- Rumor: Paul Pierce might opt out of contract with Wizards, join Clippers 15
- Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets Game 4: Three things to watch from Houston 7
- LeBron James posts triple-double, Al Horford ejected as Cavaliers take 3-0 series lead with OT Game 3 win over Hawks 30
- Kyrie Irving out for Game 3 for Cavaliers with knee tendonitis 3
- Lil B says James Harden is officially under the Based God’s curse 31