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Pacers President Larry Bird is disappointed with Lance Stpehenson’s decision to sign with the Charlotte Hornets.
Stephenson chose to sign with the Hornets despite having a chance to make more money with the Pacers.
"When I'd go to practices, when he was on, he was by far our best player. And he worked. If you work as hard as he does, you're going to get better," Bird told USA Today.
That is some serious praise to be getting from one of the greatest players of all-time, especially when you consider the Pacers feature Paul George, who has been named an all-star the past two seasons.
Stephenson is coming off the best year of his career, after averaging career highs in points (13.8), rebounds (7.2), and assists (4.6) per game. The Pacers were appreciative of Stephenson’s progress, as they offered him a five-year deal worth $44 million, notes SBNation.
Instead, Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million deal with Charlotte, though only $18 million if that is guaranteed. The Hornets have a team-option for the third year of the contract.
The Pacers drafted Stephenson with the 40th overall pick back in 2010. Stephenson had a reputation of a being a wild child coming out of the University of Cincinnati, but the Pacers took a chance on him anyway. Even when Stephenson was acting like a fool during the Eastern Conference Finals by blowing in Lebron James’ ear, the Pacers had always been supportive of him.
“And he's growing up,” said Bird. “That stuff he pulled in the playoffs, that was out of the blue.”
Bird, who is known as being something of an introvert, seemed to genuinely like Stephenson.
"I hope it doesn't interfere with our relationship," he said. "But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here.”
image courtest of INFphoto.com