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Larry Bird offers lame rationale for losing Lance Stephenson

Jul 21, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

Lance Stephenson turned down the Pacers’ five-year, $44 million contract offer.

Instead, he accepted just $18 million guaranteed over two years from the Hornets.

Did Stephenson lose free agency? Not necessarily.

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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

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.

Bob Kravitz of 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.

“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.


  1. anotheryx - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Really? That’s a lot of rage for some pretty generic PR statement.

    • zackd2 - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:23 AM

      I’m just shocked PBT wrote a post about Lance without mentioning how Lance blew into Lebron’s ear that one time.

    • infectorman - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      For real.
      What a complete and utter FORCE by author.
      Hate Bird much?

      • bkbell3 - Jul 21, 2014 at 9:46 PM

        Yes and another writer on this site said that bird also offered him shorter deals than a 5 year deal and this guy conveniently left that out.

  2. hijackthemic - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Dumb article.

  3. ThaLiveKing - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Everyone knew Lance wanted 10+ per season, Pacers couldn’t offer that without going over the cap. I think building the “better bench” was the real issue to not give Lance his figures. Vogel doesn’t even play the bench, or even make an attempt to make them useful, so why try to invest in it?

    • doughboy86 - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      Your so rite about that.. He’s the root of our problems he isn’t that much of a good coach. You would think by now Larry Bird see’s that. But I’m glad he’s in his last year of his contract it’s Finals or he’s outta there. To be honest this roster won’t make it to the finals George Hill is average @ best & our softest player is our biggest player. Plus who knows what Paul George you will get

  4. calkinsrob - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    lol what do you expect him to say.

  5. shadowgamesshades - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    Pacers just took a step back. Lance was their best creator and rebounder. Yes, the Pacers loaded up on shooters but who will create for them? George Hill? Paul George? Lance showed more heart than the whole Pacers team combined against Miami.

    • bball242322 - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:48 AM

      I agree, but I really feel like Paul will step his game up to a real elite level this year (at least that’s what i hope)

  6. chris3141084 - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:46 AM

    Sounds Donald Sterling-ish.
    Does Bird think his offer was overpaying or is based on potential, because you know he believes in him.

    • patfic5 - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      Please don’t utter Sterling and Bird in the same sentence. A racist and a guy who is respected amongst the best of athletes. Please.

      • chris3141084 - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:06 PM

        Ty Cobb was respected amongst the best of athletes too. While I wasn’t calling Bird a racist, racism is everywhere, perceived bias’ etc. The comment that Bird made, “I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid” is akin or similar to Donald’s I give them cars and money comment.
        Bird’s offer was laughable, not only in the length but average value. He low-balled him. He should have been offered closer to 12-13M, but Bird wouldn’t even reach 9M/year.

      • johnc44 - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        Low balled him?He offered an average of 8.8 and he signed for 9.0.
        I would say he pegged his value pretty close.If Lance wanted out fine that`s his right but the offer was more than anyone else offered.
        If Lance deserved 12-13 SOMEONE would`ve given it too him.The fact that no one did shows his true value when weighing the good and bad not just the on court highlights.Bird does believe in Lance.He has been in his corner from the start and has went above and beyond to help him but everyone has a line.So if he offered 55m he believes in him but at 44 he doesn`t?Race had nothing to do with it so your comparison to Sterling was a dumb as the article itself.

      • patfic5 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:07 PM

        Please. Get a clue man. Before it’s too late.

      • redbaronx - Jul 21, 2014 at 6:38 PM

        @patfic5 – After about 10 counter posts from various people, chris3141084 still doesn’t get it. I’ve never seen this level of stupidity. Not only did he compare Bird’s comments to Sterling, he then went on to compare Bird to Ty Cobb. I can’t think of a more polar opposite and inappropriate pair of comparisons that I’ve ever seen on these boards.

    • redbaronx - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      @chris3141084 – First you say below that you weren’t calling Bird a racist, then you go on to say Bird’s comment is akin to Donald Sterlings about giving his players cars and money.

      A) You don’t realize that you’re drawing a comparison that insinuates that Bird is a racist
      B) It’s a stupid comparison. Bird wasn’t commenting on what he is providing Stephenson, and that Stephenson should be “grateful” for everything he bestows on him (Like Sterling did). Bird was simply saying he thought he made a fair offer. That’s all!
      C) You didn’t see Stephenson even come back with a counter offer or indicate that he wanted less years.
      D) If Bird lowballed Stephenson, it’s because of his antics and behavior, not his talent. Signing Stephenson is a risk, so Bird might have structured the contract based on the risk he’d be taking. Common practice in business.

      • chris3141084 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        A. I didn’t say Bird was a racist. I said his comment is similar. Have you ever uttered the same words as Hitler? Yes, I’m sure you have. That doesn’t mean I just compared you to Hitler.
        B. Bird’s comment, to me, did sound like Stephenson should be grateful for his offer.
        C. True, you don’t see evidence of the contrary either.
        D. It goes back to my interpretation that Stephenson should be grateful that he was offered 44M/5yrs. “Because he believes in him”. Not because he’s worth it or because he earned it.

    • redbaronx - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      @chris3141084 – Oh and by the way, I have no idea what history you read, but Ty Cobb was one of the most reviled baseball players of his time whom no one liked. Not “well respected” like Bird.

      • chris3141084 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        I think if you look back historically, besides the racist anecdotes, Ty Cobb I believe was quite respected during his time. Modern history has cast him in a different light.

      • redbaronx - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        @chris3141084 – The only thing Ty Cobb was respected for was his game. If you read baseball memoirs of guys from that era, or books that are about the era, Ty Cobb was one of the most hated players around.

        To compare Bird to Ty Cobb is plain silly.

      • chris3141084 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:23 PM

        It wasn’t supposed to be all end all comparison to end an discussion, It was just a quick reply that meant to imply great athletes aren’t above reproach..

      • redbaronx - Jul 21, 2014 at 6:19 PM

        @chris3141084 – If that was your intent, you wouldn’t have compared Bird to Sterling and Ty Cobb. Man up. You’re making very lame comparisons, particularly as Bird has done nothing wrong. Bird basically offered 8.8 mil a year. Stephenson got 9.0. Bird’s offer was a fair offer and to imply that his remarks equated with Sterlings are just plain wrong headed.

  7. patsmiley - Jul 21, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    Paul George is the best player on the Pacers, but as a team that struggled to score more than 85 points a game, they will miss Lance’s offense.

  8. jimfix - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    Bob Kravitz works for the Indy Star, not USA Today. Also, if you actually read the article, Bird DID offer him less years and a player option instead of a team option on the third year (pretty hard to claim that isn’t in Lance’s best interests) and his management team still shot it down. Lance wanted out.

    • spursareold - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      His offer of less years was for less money per year, though.

    • jkpantheryou - Jul 22, 2014 at 12:13 AM

      hard for me to take what kravitz wrote that seriously when he is wrong about the options he claims bird was willing to offer stephenson. there is nothing in the CBA that allows for a player option in the middle of a 5 year contract. look at cba’s language in regards to player options or even ETOs if you like.

  9. snoopy2014 - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    Yeah why so angry? Bird made a pretty harmless statement. Did Stephenson’s agent ghostwriter this?

  10. gatorfan1 - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Bird – 3 Time MVP, Coach of The Year & Executive of the Year. Only person who has ever done that.

    My bet is with Bird!

    • lenbias34pt - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      L O V E this.

      And what do you think of Green , Plumlee AND a 1 to the suns for Scola?

      Or the additions of Turner and Bynum?

      Guys Bird was a great player, but in 12 months he has torn this once top 4 team down….time for another ‘break’.

      • gatorfan1 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        Yeah I guess your right! They only ended up # 1 in the Eastern Conference with home court advantage…Lol. Sometimes it’s the players that are at fault for losing…geesh???? Get a clue.

      • patsmiley - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:53 PM

        don’t forget the Kawhi Leonard for George Hill trade too..

      • unxpexted1 - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        To be fair, nobody saw that kawhi leonard thing coming. And at the time, why draft him if you already had george and granger. Wasn’t as bad of a move as people made it out to be.

  11. doctordunkenstein - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    cant wait for next season, when paul George can’t blame lance for losses, even as he goes 3-17 shooting himself. LMAO at George blaming him for everything and calling him a young fella when he’s like 3 months older than him

    • tashab03 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM

      When did he ever blame lance for poor shooting? Lol that’s just dumb.

      • doctordunkenstein - Jul 21, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        PG was blaming lance for everything during the season…and especially during the Heat series this year, while lance was the only one showing any heart during the whole series. that is until he went clinically insane in game 6

      • gostlcards5 - Jul 22, 2014 at 1:32 PM

        I watched almost every Pacers game this season, and he didn’t blame Lance for anything.

      • tashab03 - Jul 23, 2014 at 9:58 AM

        I watched or attended every single game. Also watched post game interviews and I do not recall pg blaming anyone for anything. Now Roy Hibbert did call lance out for being the selfish player that he is but the only time pg said anything negative about lance, that I recall, was at the end of the heat series. Which who could blame him? Really all he said was he didn’t know if he wanted lance back. I’m sure the players feel much like the fans in that Lance should just play ball instead of turning the series into a circus. I agreed with pg whole heartedly, I didn’t know if I wanted him to come back either.

    • bball242322 - Jul 22, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      I followed the Pacers from start to finish last season, not 1 single time the whole season did PG EVER blame Lance for a loss. Just an ignorant stupid comment made by doctordunkenstein

  12. 00maltliquor - Jul 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Wow, what a strech for an article.

    Anyway, Lance left for a better team and ditched that sinking ship in Indiana. I’m sure he’s just fine.

    • tashab03 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      Lance was a big reason for the “sinking ship”. Who do you think hibbert was referring to when he made the comment about “selfish dudes”? Lance. Undercutting teammates to pad his rebound stats. When a player constantly walks over to the scoters table to check his stats, swipes his teammates rebounds to get those “stats” he’s so worried about, has physical altercations with teammates, makes an nba final a complete circus instead of playing the game you say you’re so good at, I would say he’s a big part of the problem. Judging by PG’s initial response to the question about Lance leaving, I would say many of the Pacer players feel the same way.

      • tashab03 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        *scorers table.

      • 00maltliquor - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        Really? Well SOMEONE had to swipe those rebounds, Roy sure as hell wasn’t. And if he was “swiping” them FROM Roy, Roy IS the sinking ship if he as a 7″2 C can’t “swipe” them from a 6″5 SG in the first place! People want to put blame on everyone but theirselves.

      • tashab03 - Jul 21, 2014 at 2:58 PM

        Hibbert is absolutely part of the problem. A BIG part of the problem. But lance was just plain bad for team chemistry. I like lance to a degree but glad he’s gone. Now they just need to figure out Roy. And a real point guard would be nice.

  13. karlton3 - Jul 21, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    “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).”


    I don’t understand how Bird isn’t saying what you are. He’s saying he offered him a lot of money because he felt that Stephenson would be worth it.

  14. csbanter - Jul 21, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    No smoke no fire. Bird and the Pacers offered him a fair market deal. As the article correctly states Stephenson would have been out the league and overseas or stuck in the D-League if it weren’t for Bird. Bird gets the benefit of the doubt on this one.

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