Should The Charlotte Hornets Waive Stephenson?

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Lance Stephenson has been a disaster for the Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are fighting like mad to hold on to that last Eastern Conference playoff spot. Kemba Walker has returned from injury and is back in the starting lineup. A big trade for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Mo Williams has worked out brilliantly.

After a brutal start to the season, this team is finally playing close to what fans expected back in October. Well, except for one small piece.

Lance Stephenson.

Stephenson has been a disappointment, which is not the end of the world. Everybody knew that Stephenson was a high risk/high reward player. However, the depths to which Stephenson has sunk are beyond anything even the most pessimistic Hornets’ fan could have believed possible.

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Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post called Stephenson the least valuable player in the entire league. Greenberg used a variety of advanced metrics to make his point, and while I disagreed at the time, there is no disagreement that right now, Stephenson sucks.

Chris Mannix, of Sports Illustrated, recently wrote about just how much worse the Hornets are with Stephenson on the floor:

"To date, few of those expectations have materialized. To say Stephenson has been ineffective would be an arena-sized understatement. His scoring (8.6 points per game) is down and his field goal percentage (36.6 percent) and three-point percentage (14.8 percent) are in a free fall. He has been shoved onto the second unit and is often watching from the bench in the fourth quarter. Why? Charlotte is, on average, more than seven points per game worse when Stephenson is on the floor."

This brings up the most important question. Why is Stephenson still on the team? This group is marching through a terrible slate of back to back games and tough match-ups. The Hornets have dealt with injuries to Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and others. Yet, through it all, they kept fighting and are closing in on a playoff spot.

Given the heart and toughness of this team, why keep a guy like Stephenson around? He is well known for being a knucklehead, and his on-court production, as referenced above, is hurting the team.

Would it make sense for the Hornets to cut him loose, and just take the salary cap hit? Using the stretch provision, Charlotte could minimize the damage to their cap while ridding themselves of the world famous “ear whisperer”.

While his on-court behavior has always been odd, his off-court troubles, which at one timed seemed destined to end with Stephenson behind bars, have disappeared.

After allegedly groping a 17-year old girl while Stephenson was still in high school, and then being arrested for allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs(charges were eventually dropped), Stephenson has steered clear of the law.

So while he seems to have matured as an individual, his play during games has stagnated. Stephenson still dribbles too much. He is careless with the basketball, and he hoists up terrible shots.

He is an abysmal spot-up shooter, and his play-making ability is mostly non-existent in Charlotte. If Stephenson were willing to work on his flaws, there is no question that he could become the player general manager Rich Cho hoped he had signed.

However, Stephenson showed up to training camp out of shape, and obviously had done little basketball activities over the summer. It is clear that Stephenson needs a veteran leader, someone with unquestionable locker room presence to keep him in check.

He had that in Indiana with David West and Larry Bird. In Charlotte, the team is just too young, with the only veterans being guys who are not the “command the room” type.

So at this point it may be time to contact Stephenson’s agent about a buyout at the end of the season or simply waive him and “stretch” his contract. It is clear that the experiment has failed.

Stephenson being unceremoniously dumped by the Hornets might be good for him. He has shown an ability to learn from his mistakes, so maybe he can learn to take the game more seriously after his failures in Charlotte.

One thing in certain, this team and organization is better off without Lance Stephenson.

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