Scott Fowler: Let the Lance Stephenson show begin

 

The Charlotte Observer

I wrote last week that the Charlotte Hornets should not take a chance on Lance.

Now they have, signing Lance Stephenson to a three-year contract after an all-night negotiating session, according to The Observer's Rick Bonnell.

You know what? I would love to be wrong.

Stephenson at his best will make the Hornets so much more dangerous. He is the reliable third scoring option last year's team never really had. The former Indiana Pacer will stretch the floor for Al Jefferson, help out Kemba Walker and irritate opponents defensively.

The best-case scenario is Stephenson becomes Charlotte's version of Dennis Rodman for the Chicago Bulls in the late 1990s _a bizarre personality, but so effective on those Bulls' title teams that they kept him around (with Michael Jordan keeping Rodman in line).

And the price the Hornets have paid for Stephenson - at least by NBA standards - strikes me as quite reasonable. He will cost about 40 percent less than Gordon Hayward would. And in terms of sheer talent, Stephenson has more. He led the league in triple-doubles last season.

But I haven't changed my mind in only a week. This was a late-night gamble in Las Vegas - yes, the deal was literally struck while the Hornets were playing summer-league ball in Vegas. And anyone who has seen "The Hangover" movies knows how late nights in Vegas often pan out.

As I wrote in last week's column: Ride with Stephenson and you have an occasionally faster car, but also one with no safety devices, as well as a car missing both its headlights with brakes that work only occasionally.

Maybe Jefferson and Walker can lead this team well enough that Stephenson falls into line. Maybe the Hornets' locker room is good enough it can get Stephenson not to blow into LeBron James' ear or walk over into the Heat's huddle and start listening to the plays. One thing is for sure: You don't want Stephenson and P.J. Hairston out on the town, alone, anytime this season during a road trip.

It will be fun to watch, though. As a journalist, even though I don't like the move, I am going to enjoy the heck out of it. Stephenson is a sports columnist's dream _a n electrifying extremist that everyone has an opinion about. Even him coming to Charlotte is bizarre in its own way - he took less guaranteed money (three years, approximately $27 million) from a worse team to come to North Carolina. He's obviously betting on himself, thinking his next contract will be even bigger.

As for the Hornets, what happened in Vegas won't stay in Vegas. Charlotte didn't want to do this deal originally - remember, Hayward was the first choice - but ended up doing it anyway as its other "proven wing scorer" options dried up. And this sort of thing worked once before for awhile for the then-Bobcats - when Stephen Jackson helped lead the team to a playoff appearance in 2010. And Jackson had done a lot worse stuff than Stephenson ever had.

So here we go.

Crank up the rollercoaster.

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