Almost as soon as Lance Stephenson agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakes last week, the franchise was nearly universally pilloried for overpaying the former Indiana Pacers role player.
But — at least if you believe Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard — there was at least one other franchise who was offering something more, but the appeal of LeBron James was too much for Stephenson to pass up:
@PacersKev clarified that he offered @StephensonLance a better deal than Lakers, but phone call from @KingJames sealed it. No hard feelings on either side. Especially now that @TyrekeEvans has signed.— Mark Montieth (@MarkMontieth) July 6, 2018
That might seem like a strange statement to make, because the Pacers themselves declined an option worth less than what Stephenson accepted from the Lakers prior to free agency (via Chris Haynes of ESPN, emphasis mine):
The Indiana Pacers will make Lance Stephenson an unrestricted free agent by declining the team option on his contract for the 2018-19 season.
Stephenson, a fan favorite, was due to make $4.3 million.
”This was a very difficult decision, but as free agency begins on July 1, we want to have flexibility so that we can prepare for all of our available options,’’ Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said Monday.
But things were complicated for the Pacers, because as reported by Scott Agness of Vigilant sports, they were looking at how much cap space they could create were Thad Young to decline his player option (he ultimately opted in).
Evidently, after that, the Pacers’ came back to Stephenson with an offer that may have been worth slightly more than what the Lakers offered, but ultimately it seems James wanting him was enough to get the deal done.
It that really was the difference, then it’s good news for the Lakers that their new franchise star can be so persuasive. If he can use those same powers — along with the allure of L.A. — to convince good players to come next summer, the Lakers just may be closer to real contention than they seem.
This article was corrected to reflect that there is reporting on the Pacers offering Stephenson more money. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.