One-on-one with Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson, Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James

Lance Stephenson appreciated his time in Indiana.

LAS VEGAS — It was business as usual for Lance Stephenson this summer, working out daily in Indianapolis and playing in pick-up games against fellow pros several times a week at the Incrediplex in Lawrence. He sat courtside as multiple Indiana Fever games. He still has a home in Zionsville.

He did not expect for much to change, having just completed a full season in his second stint back with the Pacers. And he was under contract for one more year.

However, the third year of his contract, signed in 2017, was a team option. President Kevin Pritchard and the Pacers opted to decline that $4.3 million option in order to have maximum cap flexibility as they waited on veteran Thad Young to decide on his $13.7 million play option. If he opted out, they could have had $30 million to spend in a market with little competition.

The Pacers even released a statement an hour after word got out confirming the news with comment from Pritchard. ” This was a very difficult decision, but as free agency begins on July 1, we want to have flexibility so that we can prepare for all of our available options,” he said.

Three days later, Young exercised his option to remain in Indy.

On July 1, the start of free agency, the Pacers quickly reached agreement on a three-year deal with Doug McDermott, a shooter who needed a stable situation and for a team to believe in him. McDermott and Stephenson (and Kyle O’Quinn) have the same agent, so they were fully aware of what was going on.

As I reported on July 1, the Pacers were in constant communication with Lance and later made him an offer to remain in Indy. With the money being equivalent, both one-year deals, Stephenson decided the opportunity to play in Los Angeles, for the Lakers and with LeBron, was too intriguing to pass up.

On July 10th, Stephenson was in Los Angeles to sign with the Lakers, his fifth team in seven seasons. The  very next day, he came to Las Vegas and was on the court at the Mendenhall Center — home of USA Basketball’s mini-camp.

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