Lance Stephenson’s disappointing start has led to rumors that the Charlotte Hornets already are trying to move him in the first season of a lucrative contract.
He can’t do much to prove owner Michael Jordan’s bold move to sign him wasn’t a mistake while he’s sidelined.
Stephenson is doubtful to play Friday night as the Hornets visit the Philadelphia 76ers with both clubs looking to end four-game losing streaks.
After averaging career highs of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting a career-best 49.1 percent with Indiana last season, Stephenson was pursued by Jordan in free agency and signed a three-year, $27 million deal.
The fifth-year guard hasn’t lived up to expectations, though, averaging 10.2 points while shooting 38.6 percent. He’s often been benched down the stretch of close games by coach Steve Clifford, and Jordan reportedly has been shopping Stephenson around the league.
Stephenson had seven points in Wednesday’s 111-106 loss to Phoenix and suffered what the Hornets are calling a pelvic strain.
Charlotte (6-19) has had its issues outside of Stephenson and has dropped 14 of 16. It led for most of the game against Phoenix but was outscored 28-19 in the fourth quarter.
Al Jefferson had 28 points and 10 rebounds, while Kemba Walker added 27 and seven assists with zero turnovers. Jefferson had 22 points combined over his previous two, and Walker was pleased to see the Hornets get the ball inside to their big man.
"We’ve got to get back to that," Walker said. "Getting Al back in rhythm, playing through him – he did a great job."
Charlotte had seven turnovers and leads the league with 11.0 per game. That type of efficiency gives Walker the sense that the Hornets can get back on track.
"It’s been rough for us, but we know we have a really good team," Walker said. "We just need to learn how to win."
The same goes for the young 76ers (2-22), who blew an 18-point lead in the final eight minutes of Saturday’s 120-115 overtime loss to Memphis before falling 105-87 to Boston on Monday.
Both losses came at home, where Philadelphia is 0-13 and closing in on the 1993-94 Dallas club that set an NBA record with 19 home losses to begin the season.
Tony Wroten is the Sixers’ leading scorer at 16.5 points per game, but he was held scoreless and had four turnovers Monday.
”It’s a fact that you do lay an egg from time to time in the NBA over 82 games, and we laid an egg,” coach Brett Brown said. ”It was the first time for me personally in a while where you’re trying to search for answers and I didn’t have any.
”We can’t afford to have those types of letdowns.”
The major bright spot was rookie Nerlens Noel, who scored a season-best 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Noel totaled 12 points and went 4 of 19 from the field over his previous three games.
"I was able to be more active and contribute to my team," Noel said. "I’ve been working and continuing to stay confident. As this season goes along, I’ll continue to keep working and finding my open spots and continue to progress."
Jefferson had 29 points and 12 rebounds in a 111-105 win over the 76ers in the last meeting April 12. Charlotte ended a six-game skid in Philadelphia 10 days earlier.