Lance Stephenson can be one of the most exciting players in the NBA when he's on, and even when he's not playing well, he's still pretty fun to watch. He joined a Hornets team that appeared on the rise in the offseason, and it looked to be a perfect situation for both parties.
But Charlotte has stumbled to a 4-12 record in the first fifth of the season, and Stephenson has been benched in the last two fourth quarters amidst a seven-game losing streak. After the Hornets' most recent loss, coach Steve Clifford said Stephenson's play is far from star status:
"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 said Wednesday. "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."
"I've told [Stephenson] this," Clifford said. "I've been fortunate. I've been around Kobe [Bryant] and [Tracy] McGrady. They were superstars. I was also around Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. They were two-, three-year All-Stars. [Stephenson has] got a lot of work to get to that level. Everybody proclaimed him as this guy, and if you remember the first time we got him, I said he's got to develop into that."
It's a little bit of a reality check for Stephenson, who was widely considered an All-Star snub last season. He was probably the Pacers' best postseason performer during their listless run this past summer. Stephenson seems to be taking the benching in stride:
"I'm not hurt. I'm healthy," said Stephenson, who has seen his playing time reduced over each of the past five games. "There are no more excuses. Hey, it's Coach's decision if he doesn't want to play me in the fourth [quarter]. I'm just going to continue to work hard and do what it takes to win games."
It would be great to see the Hornets put it all together. The Eastern Conference is in dire need of some good teams. Hopefully Lance can slap himself out of this slump.
Photo via AP