On the first day of free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Lance Stephenson to a one-year deal worth $4.4 million. The quickness in which they made the move was puzzling to many fans — considering players like Wayne Ellington were still on the market — but not as puzzling as it was for Stephenson himself.
“I was at home chilling and I got that call from Magic,” he says. “I was like, No way! They want me on the Lakers? And with LeBron and the young fellas we have, I was like, I can’t turn this down. I’m just happy for this opportunity and I feel like as I continue to work, many [more] blessings are going to come.
“I was like, You think LeBron wants me on this team?!” he continues. “I definitely knew that playing alongside him I could help him and help bring in that energy and that toughness, that defense, and also a clutch performance in some games—I feel like I’m built for tough, close games. I knew I could help this unit. I’ve now played for Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and now Magic Johnson. Talking to those great players helped my game out, just learning how they think.”
And Stephenson must have been really surprised, given that this isn’t even the first time he’s publicly registered such shock.
Unfortunately, the Lance Stephenson experiment in Los Angeles hasn’t exactly gone the way either side probably envisioned it. With the exception of a few high-scoring games to start the season, Stephenson has struggled to make an impact for the Lakers on either end of the floor.
Offensively, he’s a more efficient player than he was last season, but his shot selection is still as perplexing as it is frustrating. On defense, he’s been a complete non-factor, putting up a defensive rating of 107.3 and an overall net rating of -4.1 (meaning the Lakers are outscored by 4.1 points per 100 possessions when Stephenson is on the floor.
Additionally. through 31 games with the Lakers, Stephenson is posting the worst box plus-minus (-1.3) of anyone on the team that is averaging at least 10 minutes per game.
Stephenson might have earned his contract with the Lakers with his play last season, but he’s failed to live up to it so far this season. With Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram expected to return later this week, there’s a good chance Stephenson finds himself out of the rotation again.