Clippers needed change, which they get via trade for 24-year-old Stephenson
The Clippers needed to make changes this offseason, and they started Monday via the trade that made Lance Stephenson as their newest shooting guard.
Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach and president of basketball operations, said during the team's exit interviews that they might need to take a gamble or two on the free agency and trade market, and that's what happened Monday.
The Clippers sent forward Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes to Charlotte in exchange for the 24-year-old Stephenson.
An offseason is time to upgrade, and the Clippers are trying to find ways - without a draft pick and limited cap space - to bolster the roster following their stinging Western Conference semifinals loss to Houston in the playoffs.
The Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead in the series against Houston and a 19-point lead late in the third quarter of Game 6 at Staples Center that surely still hurts. Had they held on to the lead they would've played Golden State in the Western Conference Finals. Instead, they faced an offseason of heartbreak. And now change.
The 35-year-old Barnes had a solid year with 10.1 points and 4.0 rebounds in 76 games. One knock on his season would've been his penchant for picking up technical fouls and drawing fines. Barnes had said all season that it was championship or bust for the Clippers, and it didn't work out.
Hawes never worked out in the first year of a 4-year, $23 million deal because he never found his shooting touch. He was relegated to a non-existent role off the bench but was able to work his way back to seeing some time off the bench in the playoffs. Still, it was a season-long slump.
Stephenson is just 24 years old and averaged 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists last year, a definite decline from his pervious season with Indiana. Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in starting 78 games for the Pacers in 2013-14.
He's perhaps most famous for his antics in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014 against Miami. He trash talked LeBron James and blew in his ear. He also walked into a Heat huddle. Team president Larry Bird called Stephenson's behavior wasn't professional. Stephenson then signed a free agent deal for 3-year, $27 million with Charlotte last year. There is an option for the third and final year of that contract in 2016-17.
Stephenson began his NBA playing career as a teenager and spent the first four years with the Pacers, one with the Hornets and now will be playing for the third team in his young NBA career.
Rivers led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title. Between his leadership and the tutelage of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and a change of scenery, that might just be the boost Stephenson's career needs.