Lance Stephenson wants to change his reputation with Clippers


Nov 28, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Lance Stephenson (1) complains after being called for a foul during the second half of the game against the Golden State Warriors at Time Warner Cable Arena. Warriors win 106-101. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers have officially traded for Lance Stephenson of the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes. Now that he has another chance to continue the success he initially began with the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson can begin a fresh chapter in L.A. and hopefully undo the damage he did to his reputation in Charlotte.

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Lance Stephenson emerged as somewhat of a stud with the Pacers before he left in 2014. His playing time increased in each of the four years he was there, and when he reached a career high 35.3 minutes per game in the 2013-14 season, Stephenson had become one of the most versatile players in the league. Not because he was an incredible offensive player, but because he could play and defend multiple positions, distribute the ball effectively, attack the rim like a mini-LeBron James at times, and for being only 6’5″ he could rebound incredibly well. As a result, he led the league with five triple doubles in his last season with the Pacers.

In 2013, Lance Stephenson started 78 games for Indiana, and averaged 13.8 points on 49.1 percent shooting (including 35.2 percent from three point range), 0.7 steals, 4.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds per game. His versatility made him a pivotal part of the Pacers team that won 56 games to win the East and made it all the way to the Conference Finals.

That was before Paul George was injured, Stephenson left, and Indiana fell all the way to just 9th place in the Eastern Conference.

Then began Stephenson’s disaster year with the Hornets.

May 18, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) drives to the basket against Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 107-96. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

His numbers fell across the board, his shooting percentage dropped by nearly 12 percent, his three point shooting fell by 18 percent, and he simply didn’t belong. More importantly, Charlotte went from having 43 wins before the arrival of Stephenson to just 33 with him on the team. His career outside of Indiana went wrong on all levels and he was soon viewed as nothing more than a disappointment.

However, the Clippers don’t need offense. They already led the league in offensive efficiency with 109.8 points per 100 possessions this year. And they did that without the help of Barnes or Hawes as well. What they do need is defense and rebounding, after ranking just 15th in defensive efficiency and only 16th in rebounding rate.

This is where Lance Stephenson can make a difference.

When he was formally introduced as a member of the Clippers at a news conference this Thursday, Stephenson began to emphasize how much he wants to change his reputation for the better. According to Lance, he’s not all about blowing in people’s ears anymore.

Arash Markazi of reported his comments:

"“I’m going to work hard this season to get those rumors out. That’s not the issue. I’m very good in the locker room. You can ask all the players that I’ve played with. You can ask the coaches. I’m very good in the locker room. When I’m on the court I got that type of energy where it looks like I’m yelling at somebody. But when I talk to my teammates it amps them and makes them work harder. I want to take that [negative] title off my name because that’s not me. I’m a good locker room guy.”"

It’s easy to make positive comments about yourself in a press conference, but regardless of whether or not Stephenson was a problem in Charlotte, it’s clear that he’s accepted the fact he needs to change for the better.

Mar 1, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Lance Stephenson (1) looks on against the Orlando Magic during the second half at Amway Center. Charlotte Hornets defeated the Orlando Magic 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Doc Rivers has dealt with difficult players before, and has still managed to take teams to championship level. He won a title with Rajon Rondo and his Boston Celtics in 2008, yet Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle had numerous disagreements with Rondo this year, and consequently endured his Mavericks suffering. Because no matter how good a passer Rondo is, the Mavs just weren’t the same offensive team at all with him on the floor.

Charlotte can’t be compared to L.A., though, as the Clippers have far more talent and a far better shot at making a deep playoff run. If Stephenson is content and Doc can help him acclimatise to his new team, maybe Lance can return to his old Pacers-level form. Especially if he approaches this new situation with the right mindset.

If he can do that, Stephenson may be able to provide the defense and rebounding that the Clippers desperately need from their bench.

For in depth looks at what Lance Stephenson brings to the L.A., as well as constant coverage and analysis of the Clippers this offseason, make sure you follow us here at Clipperholics.

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