The Charlotte Hornets are reportedly exploring trade offers for swingman Lance Stephenson.
While no deal involving Stephenson is imminent, he becomes eligible to be traded Monday, the first day that players who signed new contracts in July can be dealt.
Hornets owner Michael Jordan signed Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million deal over the summer, but Charlotte holds a team option on the final season of his contract. The four-year veteran is shooting 38.9 percent from the floor and 16.7 percent from three-point range, and the Hornets have begun the season 6-17 after making the playoffs last year as the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Charlotte has "rapidly lost hope that its brief partnership with Stephenson can stand the test of time." The Hornets have reportedly targeted the Indiana Pacers -- with whom Stephenson spent the first four seasons of his NBA career -- and Brooklyn Nets as possible trade partners.
Stephenson, 24, has also received fewer fourth-quarter minutes of late from coach Steve Clifford. Last month, Clifford said that Stephenson's struggles could be attributed to expectations that were too high after his signing.
"To be fair, one of the things that's made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar," Clifford said, according to ESPN.com. "He's not a star. He's a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years."
Indiana offered Stephenson a four-year deal to re-sign with the team over the summer, but Stephenson opted for Charlotte's shorter contract. Stephenson was an important member of the Pacers teams that reached consecutive Eastern Conference finals in 2013-14. Known as a high-energy, strong defender, Stephenson averaged a career-high 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season.
- Mike Fiammetta