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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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