Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird says he is disappointed that he lost guard Lance Stephenson to free agency and that he did everything he could to keep him with the team.
Stephenson bolted Indiana after four seasons and signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Stephenson, 23, set career highs with averages of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season.
"I really feel bad about losing him,'' Bird said, via the Indianapolis Star. "I hope it doesn't interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here. Even if he didn't have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid."
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The Pacers have several players that will be entering free agency next offseason, including forward David West and center Roy Hibbert, who can opt out of their current deals.
For Stephenson, he rejected a $44 million deal from the team and was courted by several teams during the free agency period.
"It's just disappointing,'' Bird said. "When I'd go to practices, when he was on, he was by far our best player. And he worked. If you work as hard as he does, you're going to get better. I'm going to miss the kid, no question."
- Scooby Axson