After agreeing to a deal with LeBron James in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly set about their task of surrounding him with veterans who have been through the fire. They wanted players who were ready to win now and could help James show the young Lakers the path to victory.
Arguably one of the team’s most controversial signings was Lance Stephenson. After spending years infamously pestering James in the playoffs, now Stephenson finds himself in the same uniform as former arch-rival, ready to back him up as they hope to be part of the Lakers’ push back to the top of the NBA.
At first glance, the Stephenson signing was a curious one. Los Angeles committed over $4 million to him, a sizable amount for a player who didn’t appear to be in very high demand after a mediocre year coming off the bench in Indiana.
Stephenson has bounced around the league a bit, as well as out of it, but he’s always seemed to be at his best when playing in Indiana. That said, it’s far too early to write Stephenson off completely.
While the Lakers’ front office has been raked over the coals for their non-James free agent choices, Stephenson does provide a bit of the toughness that the team lacked at times last season. Every team needs that guy who walks the line between sanity and madness, and it’s a feat that Stephenson can pull off better than most.
Statistically, his lack of shooting makes him a questionable fit and his defensive abilities aren’t what they once were, but he still has the right mentality to play lockdown defense. He also thrives in the open floor and is a surprisingly creative passer, which will serve the fast-breaking Lakers well.
While he may not be the first choice to pick up wing minutes for Los Angeles, Stephenson could surprise some people this coming season.