The Charlotte Hornets are targeting the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets as destinations to unload guard Lance Stephenson, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Stephenson becomes eligible to be traded on Monday, and Charlotte has rapidly lost hope that its brief partnership with Stephenson can stand the test of time.
Indiana hasn't ruled out the possibility of bringing back Stephenson, but appears unwilling to seriously engage the Hornets without the inclusion of a first-round pick in a potential deal, sources told Yahoo Sports.
So far, Charlotte has shown no inclination to package a future draft pick to move Stephenson, league executives told Yahoo Sports.
Charlotte signed Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal this summer, but holds a team option on the final season of the contract. After reaching the playoffs with 43 victories a season ago, the Hornets have stumbled to a 6-17 start this season.
Charlotte coach Steve Clifford has largely stopped using Stephenson in the fourth quarter and key stretches of games. The gulf between Stephenson and his Charlotte teammates has been growing, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Stephenson's inability to co-exist on the floor with point guard Kemba Walker is among the primary reasons for the franchise's desire to trade him, sources said.
Charlotte reached out to Indiana on a potential Stephenson deal and has been pushing to generate an ongoing conversation, sources said. Indiana knows there's significant trepidation about Stephenson around the league, and knows him better than anyone. They've acted with little urgency on the matter, understanding they would own all the leverage in talks on Stephenson, league sources said.
When the Hornets first proposed a deal to reunite Stephenson with Indiana, the Pacers suggested the discussion start with two future first-round picks, league sources said. Make no mistake: The Pacers understand they can negotiate from a position of strength.
There are no trade proposals in serious discussion, nor is any deal for Stephenson imminent.
Indiana offered Stephenson a four-year deal to re-sign over the summer, but he chose the shorter contract with Charlotte. The Pacers had a support system surrounding Stephenson that allowed for the combustible guard to have success there, but he's still a polarizing figure within the organization and a wide-range of opinions exist internally about bringing him back. Nevertheless, Pacers president Larry Bird has always been partial to Stephenson's talent.
The Nets have talked with Charlotte on the possibility of a deal for Stephenson, a Brooklyn native, and have been scouring the league for intel on Stephenson, sources told Yahoo. Charlotte has had a willingness to consider taking center Brook Lopez, whom they nearly signed to an offer sheet in 2012, in a trade, league sources said. The two teams have exchanged ideas, but Brooklyn has been mostly spending time trying to investigate the risks and rewards of possible scenarios with Stephenson.
Charlotte has been open to discussing the Nets' big-salary stars as part of a broader Stephenson package, including Lopez and Joe Johnson, sources said. The combination of a third year on Deron Williams' deal – as well as the emergence of Walker as the franchise's point guard – leaves Charlotte uninterested in acquiring Williams, league sources said.
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