Is the player who peeved Heat fans for the last two years the answer to their favorite basketball team's early-season woes?
Source: Hornets haven't received good offers for Lance Stephenson. Have decided to "keep him for now." Indiana, Miami among teams w/interest— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) December 19, 2014
The mercurial shooting guard turned in a solid season for the top-seeded Indiana Pacers last year and signed a three-year, $27.4 million with the Charlotte Hornets during the off-season. But in the midst of a 6-19 start, the Hornets already have buyer's remorse. Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has benched him and said that he's "not a star."
From the Heat perspective, the final year of Stephenson's contract is a team option. Pat Riley could trade for Stephenson and keep his cap space for the 2016 off-season. But Stephenson was supposed to help a Charlotte core of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker improve fresh off a playoff berth. The Hornets giving up on Stephenson this early into his first season should raise some flags for opposing teams.
Moreover, Stephenson has always seemed to get under Heat players' skin -- even before he was good. In the 2012 playoffs, Stephenson made a choke sign after LeBron James missed a free throw. Juwan Howard, now a Heat assistant coach, and Dexter Pittman soon responded.
And then there's this...
I think you get the picture now if you needed to refresh your memory.
Any Stephenson-to-Miami trade would likely center on Luol Deng and result in the 6-foot-5 guard playing small forward for the Heat. We can debate the merits of Deng vs. Stephenson. Since Charlotte isn't happy with offers, though, the Heat may have to offer Norris Cole or another piece. Miami and Cole did not agree on an extension at the start of the season, and the Heat just used a first-round pick on Shabazz Napier.
Perhaps this move is Riley simply doing his due diligence and thinking about everything. Perhaps it is something more. But Riley does not appear resigned to the idea of tanking the season and attempting to fall down far enough so that Miami keeps its top-10 protected first-round pick that Philadelphia currently owns.