Hornets GM on Lance Stephenson: ‘He never fit in great’


While one general manager stood silent in the wake of Lance Stephenson being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, the other made sure to make his thoughts on the combo guard publicized as Lance prepared for life on the opposite coast.

That GM is Hornets’ Rich Cho who, in a conference call following the trade announcement (via the Charlotte Observer), said Stephenson never fit in with Charlotte last season, a factor easily seen by the naked eye if you ever took time out of your day to watch a Hornets game. “Sometimes when you make a trade or a signing it just doesn’t work out well,” said Cho. “He never fit in great. Sometimes you don’t know how (a player) will fit until he plays for your team.”

Stephenson’s inability to fit in with the Hornets, and mainly backcourt partner Kemba Walker, were well documented on top of Stephenson’s irregular struggles on the floor. Because of Stephenson’s sudden fall in three-point percentage (down to 17% in CHA after shooting 35% in ’13-14 with Indy), to be effective, Lance needed the ball in his hands. But this occurrence impacted the Hornets’ ability to space the floor around Al Jefferson as Walker also saw a decline in three-point shooting, down from 33% in ’13-14 to 30% in ’14-15.

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Lance Stephenson sends bold message to Knicks about hopeful NBA return
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  • While many would stand to point a finger at Cho for missing on the Stephenson signing, in April Hornets coach Steve Clifford took the bullet for the decision to bring the New York native to Charlotte.

    “Lance is here because of me. I’m the one that wanted Lance,” Clifford said on April 1, via Rick Bonnell’s Inside the NBA. “It’s simply that I can’t find a group that plays well when he’s out there.”

    It didn’t take long for Lance’s time in Charlotte to go downhill.

    In the preseason, Stephenson suffered a groin injury that hampered his play early. And after a 4-12 start, Steve Clifford went public, stating Stephenson isn’t the superstar many want him to be, let alone a star in the NBA.

    “To be fair, one of the things that’s made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar,” Clifford told ESPN. “He’s not a star. He’s a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years.”

    From there, Stephenson’s tenure in Charlotte was a mixture of injury, expected frustration and a reduced role, with the majority of his playing time coming without Kemba Walker on the floor, allowing him to be a unit’s full-time playmaker.

    Though it’s easy to pile on Stephenson given the guard possessing an attitude more acknowledgeable than his play last season, he wasn’t the lone reason why the Hornets fell out of the playoffs after making it for the first time since 2010. Al Jefferson dealt with injury and a slight play decline. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the teams defensive anchor, was unable to consistently stay on the floor due to injury. Kemba Walker suffered a torn meniscus in January and shooters regression. And as a team, Stephenson included, the Hornets shot 31% from three, the worst in the NBA this past season and the 10th worst percentage by a team since the 2004-05 season.

    Given Stephenson’s pre-Hornets seasons with the Pacers, it wouldn’t have been obscene to see Charlotte give the fit another try. Instead, Cho saw the deal with Los Angeles as an opportunity to hasitily move on, with the team owner gracing the decision.

    “There were no directives to trade Lance,” Cho said. “Just talking philosophy, what M.J. said is important: Give (an acquisition) some time to work out, but if it doesn’t work out, move on.