Much like the dichotomy of Lance Stephenson‘s promising potential and his ridiculous on-the-court antics last season, it appears Born Ready’s contract situation isn’t going over as smoothly as the Indiana Pacers would like. When Avery Bradley is getting paid $8 million a year and Jodie Meeks is netting a three-year, $18 million deal, even heartfelt tribute videos are going to pale in comparison to the prospect of more money.
Despite Larry Bird‘s best efforts, ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that Indiana’s contract offer to Stephenson – five years, $44 million – wasn’t good enough. Stephenson led the league in triple-doubles in his fourth season and put together his best year in 2013-14, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game (all career highs).
On Tuesday, the Indiana Pacers surprised Stephenson and his family with a private party at a local theater that showed an emotional movie about his life and featured a few words from Bird and head coach Frank Vogel.
Even after Stephenson’s antics in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals derailed an already unstable Pacers team, Bird quickly reaffirmed that Indiana would love to have him back in 2014-15 if at all possible to Indiana Pacers beat reporter Scott Agness:
Bird on Stephenson: “I always want him back. You don’t let a talent like that walk away if you can help it.”
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) June 2, 2014
The Pacers are right to do their best to keep Stephenson around, but there are also financial implications to consider. Between Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill, Indiana already has nearly $51 million on the books for those four players alone. Their offer of $44 million over five years is a great one considering the their desire to bring him back while also not breaking the bank to do so.
Part of that reluctance has to do with what the market can offer Lance Stephenson. There are plenty of teams that will consider upping Indiana’s offer, but Broussard’s report notes that Stephenson doesn’t necessarily want to go to whatever team offers him the most money; after playing with the Pacers in the East for so long, Born Ready wants to continue contending for titles, which will factor into his decision when the offers start coming in.
That means that Stephenson’s perfect team is a contender who will somehow offer him more money than the Pacers. Given his on-the-court antics, inconsistent play and the potential headache that comes with the total package, there’s a chance the market for Stephenson could dry up a little bit and he ends up re-signing with the Pacers for lack of a better option. Bradley’s contract with the Boston Celtics will make that difficult to swallow for a younger, more talented player like Stephenson, but come on. They made you a tribute video, Lance! And I bet it didn’t even include this!