May 26, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) goes to the bench against the Miami Heat in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What Was Lance Stephenson Thinking?

Lance Stephenson decided to leave Indiana last week and sign with the Charlotte Hornets. He took a deal that was ultimately worth less money and apparently didn’t want to negotiate very much.

Bob Kravitz of the IndyStar gave us Larry Bird’s side of the negotiations on Monday. Bird expressed his dismay at Stephenson leaving and seemed a bit betrayed.

We have also heard Stephenson’s agent, Alberto Ebanks, who stated that the Pacers were unwilling to negotiate and that led to the deal with Charlotte.

Reports indicated that the Pacers initially offered up a five-year $44 million deal. All guaranteed money. His deal with the Hornets was for two years $18 million with a team option for a third year.

Generally speaking, Stephenson left Indiana for the difference of $200,000 per year and for $26 million less in guaranteed money.

Ebanks stated that the Pacers refused to offer Stephenson a shorter term deal and now were hear from Bird that isn’t the case. The shorter term deal stems from the television contracts which are set to be re-negotiated in 2016. That means the cap will rise for teams across the league and free up more money for player contracts.

Stephenson is essentially betting on himself in this situation and assuming that he’ll be worth a larger contract in two years. People in Stephenson’s circle believed that he was worth $12 million a year, but no one in the NBA offered him a deal anywhere near that number.

Who do we believe in this situation?

Do we take Ebanks at his word and assume the Pacers would not budge on the numbers? Or do we listen to Bird who said they offered a number of different options up for Stephenson and he turned them all down?

The truth is likely somewhere in between both statements. That doesn’t change the fact that the Stephenson bolted for what amounts to $200,000 more per year (and for a state with a higher income tax).

At some point, Stephenson decided he was worth over $10 million per year. And somehow he never made the connection that since no one offered up that kind of money, it meant he really wasn’t worth that eight-figure deal. It sounds more and more like Stephenson is receiving bad advice and it wouldn’t be shocking he spirals out of control this coming season.

It is surprising to see the small difference between the numbers and then to see Stephenson bolt for a deal that takes all the control out of his hands. At some point, if rumors are to be true, Stephenson was insulted by a salary that would place him just slightly above George Hill.

Regardless of the reasoning behind his decision, the Pacers are now left to find a player who can fill the role Stephenson had with the team. They need someone who can create plays and distribute the ball effectively and also provide a solid defensive effort.

The team was in the gutter offensively and Stephenson was the one player who could consistently move the ball. Short of a big trade, the Pacers will have to rely on the combination of Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles to fill the void.

Tags: Indiana Pacers Lance Stephenson Larry Bird

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