After it looked like they had won the 2018 NBA offseason with the signing of LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers made a questionable move by signing Lance Stephenson using the room exception.
Why did it seem questionable? Well for one thing, historically speaking, Mr. James and Mr. Stephenson haven’t always played nice.
It all started in 2014, during the heated Eastern Conference Finals matchup between James’ Miami Heat and Stephenson’s Pacers. Both teams were playing with a fiery, competitive spirit, but Stephenson took it a step further when he famously blew into James’ ear.
By then, James was already a two-time NBA champion, a four-time league MVP and a father. Meanwhile, Stephenson, just 23 years old at the time, was coming into his own as a player.
Surely, now four years later, both James and Stephenson have moved on from the incident, right? Well ... (from April):
LeBron's reaction to Lance is priceless (via @Steve_OS) pic.twitter.com/L8fZ8AKzUj— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) April 15, 2018
James and Stephenson might not ever be the best of friends, but James has no problem playing with Stephenson. In fact, prior signing with the Lakers, Stephenson’s agent reached out to James’ camp to make sure there were no hard feelings.
If you worried about chemistry between LeBron James and Lance Stephenson, here's reason for optimism. They've had some battles, but Stephenson's agent called Rich Paul to make sure LeBron was ok with him coming, sources tell me and @BA_Turner— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) July 2, 2018
So the good news it doesn’t look like there will be any problems in the locker room. However, their fit on the court remains to be seen.
James is at his best when he’s surrounded by shooters and Stephenson, to put it politely, is not that.
Last season with the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson shot an abysmal 28.9 percent from behind the arc, but still attempted 2.9 three-pointers per game. According to NBA.com, of the 149 players to attempts more than 200 three-pointers last season, Stephenson ranked third-to-last in the three-point percentage, only better than Stanley Johnson and Josh Jackson. Not ideal.
But maybe Stephenson does other things on the court that made the front office think he’d be a good fit next to James! We just haven’t seen what those things are yet.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.