Michael Jordan promised star power in free agency, and the Charlotte Hornets owner is on the verge of landing Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson.
ESPN reported Jordan, general manager Rich Cho, head coach Steve Clifford and assistant coach Patrick Ewing met with Stephenson in Las Vegas on Tuesday and worked out a three-year deal that could pay him up to $27 million.
Stephenson was offered a five-year, $44 million deal to stay with the Pacers on July 1 but declined the deal, viewing it as another sign that Indiana undervalued his contribution to a team with consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pacers reportedly scoffed at offering Stephenson, who led the NBA in triple-doubles last season, a shorter deal. Jordan hailed the team's under-the-radar signing as Al Jefferson last season as a turning point. Now he's added another All-Star caliber contributor.
“Lance is forever grateful for all the love he's received from Pacers fans. He is especially grateful to his teammates, (Pacers coach) Frank Vogel, (owner) Herb Simon, the Pacers management and most of all, Larry Bird,” said Alberto Ebanks, Stephenson's agent, in a statement. “While we tried our best to come to the best possible terms for both sides, there was not sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract, particularly the length of the contract.
”Reports throughout the negotiation process with Indiana have often strayed from the truth but suffice it to say that it was less about the money. Lance will miss the city, the team and the mentor who helped transform him into the dynamic player he has become. He looks forward to making a strong contribution and beginning a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets.“
There were other suitors for Stephenson, including the Dallas Mavericks. Those teams moved on as Stephenson waited for the big free-agent dominoes to fall into place.