It’s no secret Lance Stephenson is on the trading block, but as long as he’s still with the Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford is going to take advantage of the volatile guard’s versatility.
With Kemba Walker’s status up in the air, Stephenson could see some action at the point Saturday night against the visiting Indiana Pacers as he faces his former team for the second time.
Stephenson missed the previous 14 with a pelvic sprain before scoring eight points in 19 minutes of Wednesday’s 98-93 loss to San Antonio as the Hornets (15-25) had their five-game winning streak snapped.
It’s been open knowledge that Stephenson, who signed a three-year, $27 million contract after four seasons with Indiana and is shooting just 38.6 percent from the field, is being shopped around the league.
It has been reported that Charlotte was close to sending Stephenson to Brooklyn as part of a three-team trade with Oklahoma City, but it appears the Hornets have backed out. Clifford didn’t sense any change in Stephenson’s approach despite the rumors.
"Every player is different," Clifford said. "If I feel like I see something where it’s bothering somebody, I would talk to him. I didn’t see that (at practice). I saw a bunch of guys who are getting ready to play a game (Saturday). Right now, we’re just getting ready for the Pacers."
The Hornets held practice Friday without Walker, who scored 28 points against the Spurs but is questionable for this contest with knee inflammation. He’s averaged 29.8 points over his last six.
"It’s hurting me a little more than usual so I just want to take care of it," Walker said. "It’s very frustrating. I hate to miss practice and games, but there’s still a chance I can play."
If Walker can’t go, Clifford said he could start Brian Roberts at the point with Stephenson and Gary Neal, who missed the last two with a hamstring injury, sharing time at the position as well.
Stephenson said he prefers to be in that spot due to his comfort handling the ball and having more control. He had 10 points and seven assists in his first game against the Pacers on Nov. 19, but the Hornets fell 88-86 on Solomon Hill’s putback with 0.7 seconds remaining.
"It’s going to be different because it’s not in Indiana," Stephenson said. "Playing against my former teammates is a little different, but I’ll be all right. I talk to them all the time."
The Pacers (15-26) were the victims of a last-second tip-in Friday, as Andre Drummond converted with 0.3 seconds left to give Detroit a 98-96 road victory.
Roy Hibbert scored 14 points and Damjan Rudez added a career-high 13 for Indiana, which has lost three straight and four of five heading into a five-game road trip.
"It’s tough right now," said Ian Mahinmi, who had 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench. "We played our brand of basketball. It’s just tough to lose like that."
George Hill sat out for an eighth straight game due to a groin injury, and he’s not expected to play in this contest, either. He’s played in only five games this season after recovering from a knee injury in the preseason.
Hornets big man Al Jefferson, who had 28 points in the first meeting, has missed eight straight with a strained groin and isn’t expected to return until next week.