The Charlotte Hornets finally made a splash in free agency when they signed former Indiana Pacers star Lance Stephenson.
Lance Stephenson is known for blowing in LeBron James’ ear during the Eastern Conference Finals, and memes of Lance have taken over the internet.
We know a lot about Lance Stephenson when it comes to that, but we wanted to get to know more about Lance when it comes to his basketball skills. So who knows him the best? Indiana Pacer fans of course, so we talked with Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows, an Indiana Pacers community on the SB Nation network.
Here is our interview with Tom Lewis:
1. Were you shocked to see Lance Stephenson leave Indiana for Charlotte? How much will Lance’s departure hurt the Pacers?
Tom Lewis - I was more surprised that more teams, or at least one team, didn’t have Lance a little higher on their summer priority list and at least make an offer over $10 million. The fact that the Pacers didn’t budge off of their initial offer made it apparent they were willing to let him go. Considering their salary cap situation, the Pacers had limited options to up the ante but they did have some ways to make it happen. Obviously, Larry Bird was willing to let Lance walk.
Lance’s departure surely hurts in the short term if the Pacers don’t make any other moves before the start of the season. It will be hard to his dynamic play which made a big difference considering Lance was really a option 3 or 4 for the Pacers’ offense. Defensively he had become a strong perimeter defender within the team’s system, utlitlizing his 6′ 10 wingspan with the long arms of George Hill and Paul George to make it tough on opponents to find passing lanes which combined with Roy Hibbert protecting the rim, created the league’s top defense for much of the year. So while Lance is considered an offensive highlight player, his more subtle impact on defense will be missed.
2. Do you like Lance’s antics/personality? Or does he need to calm down? Will he be too much of a distraction for the Hornets?
Tom Lewis - Not all Lance antics are the same. Some are fantastic and fun while others mind-numbing. Post-play celebrating is always good by me (this is entertainment, after all) and Lance is a league-leader in the category. It is the in-play antics that can drive you nuts. Over dribbling or trying to pass out of a bind with a no-look rocket through traffic that becomes a turnover.
The in-play antics are where he needs to calm down and let the game unfold without trying to force the action. I can vividly recall a few plays where Lance corralled a steal and then tried to throw a blind over-the-head pass intended for a teammate running in transition but instead went right back to the opponent. On these plays, you could see a couple of assistant coaches just flail back in their seats, indicating the type of play they were trying to ween Stephenson from making. He’s entering a different situation with different responsibilities in the playing rotation for the Hornets. His experience should help prevent him from doing anything too wild to become a distraction.
3. What is one thing Lance needs to improve on if he wants to take his game to the next level?
Tom Lewis - As I mentioned above, playing with the same energy and intensity while eliminating the handful of plays that become turnovers, bad shots or fouls due to unnecessary attempts to add flair and lift the fans from their seats. Lance has plenty of game to play within himself and still deliver eye-opening plays that will have Hornets’ fans buzzing (sorry).
4. In your opinion, what is Lance’s biggest strength? What should Charlotte Hornets fans be expecting from Lance next year?
Tom Lewis - Lance’s biggest strength is his ability to see the game unfold while playing at full speed. He can see his teammates becoming open before they do at times and is a willing passer. Syncing up with his new teammates so they are ready for the ball at all times will be key. He’s also a bulldog for a backcourt player with a stout frame and the ability to take a hit in the lane and still make a play at the hoop.
Heh, that reminds me, don’t panic the first time you see Lance on the floor after a hit, acting as if he could be out for the season. He’s fine. The guy can make World Cup soccer floppers seem reasonable. Let’s just say he has a low pain threshold, but he rarely loses much playing time over it.
Assuming he’s in more of a lead role for the Hornets next season with a fantastic offensive low post presence in Al Jefferson to work with, Lance should have an opportunity to take his game to another level or two. There are multiple levels remaining in Lance’s game which make the Hornets’ move to sign him worth any risks.
5. Will Lance Stephenson be an NBA All-Star next year? How much better does he make the Hornets?
Tom Lewis - Lance could be an All-Star next year if he doesn’t think about being an All-Star next year. He almost made the game after starting the season as the fourth offensive option for the Pacers. He put up great numbers and helped fuel and amazing first half of the season. After the All-Star break, he started hunting for numbers more, showing displeasure when teammates missed shots that denied him assists and saw his game decline while trying to prove to other coaches that he should’ve been an All-Star.
But in a strong role with the Hornets I think the added responsibility will be good for the growth of Lance’s game. The Hornets have some good scoring options around him and his ability to create shots for himself and others should be a great fit.