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Hornets ink Stephenson to three-year deal

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Just when it looked like the Charlotte Hornets were going to get shut out during the summer's free agent sweepstakes, the franchise made a huge splash in Sin City signing former Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson to a three-year deal.

The deal was signed early Wednesday morning after Hornets owner Michael Jordan, general manager Rich Cho, head coach Steve Clifford and associate head coach Patrick Ewing met with Stephenson and his representatives Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Stephenson provided a statement on Twitter:

"Indy, I had a great 4 years. Thank you Larry Bird, the fans, my coaches and teammates for the incredible experience. I will never forget any of you! I now have to look to the next phase of my career and the wonderful opportunity to continue to grow as a player and as a person in Charlotte! I'm excited to play for this franchise and the fans!! #buzzcity"

The Pacers made Stephenson a five-year, $44 million contract offer on July 1. But Stephenson, who led the league in triple-doubles, felt the offer was not reflective of his market value.

The Observer reports Stephenson will earn $9 million in 2014-15 and 2015-16, and slightly more in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up his option. Earlier, ESPN reported Stephenson agreed to a three-year, $27M deal.

After the Utah Jazz matched the max offer sheet that Charlotte offered forward Gordon Hayward, there were questions as to what the Hornets plans were for adding talent to the roster. This move answers that question in a very big way.

Similar to other teams around the league, the Hornets, while fans of Stephenson's play, had concerns about his antics on the court. But sources say those concerns were alleviated in Tuesday's face-to-face meeting.

While the addition of Stephenson is clearly a major upgrade for the Hornets, the question still remains who will be exiting the starting lineup to make room for him. Gerald Henderson, the Hornets current shooting guard is under contract through this season and has a player-option for the following year.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who is by far the Hornets best on-ball defender, has two more years under his rookie contract and has been the team's starting small forward since being drafted second overall in 2012.

While that decision may be a hard one for coach Clifford to make, it is a luxury that he surely will welcome adding the kind of depth that depth that gives his team a chance to go on a serious playoff run in 2015.

Having another ball-handler to play alongside Kemba Walker who can distribute, rebound and pose a threat from beyond the arc (35.2 % 3-pt FG pct) gives Charlotte a potential "big three" with all-NBA center Al Jefferson patrolling the paint.

This move along with the signing of Marvin Williams from the Jazz will more than likely address most of the off-season concerns for the Hornets. It is possible that the team will look to add a veteran point guard to spell Walker before the summer ends.

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