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NBA AM: Hornets’ Stephenson Has Zero Regrets

Once hailed as the Hornets’ missing piece, Lance Stephenson now toils on the bench

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Lance Stephenson shows maturity as role in Charlotte decreases

The Charlotte Hornets (31-42) are fighting for their playoff lives, currently two games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference. But Charlotte wasn’t supposed to be in this position, returning their core group after becoming one of the league’s surprises in 2014.

The Hornets had larger aspirations and all of the momentum from the city in their pocket after an offseason rebranding campaign. The buzz was supposedly back in the Queen City.

Adding to the excitement surrounding Charlotte was marquee free agent signee Lance Stephenson. The versatile forward was fresh off a near All-Star caliber campaign in Indiana and the Hornets thought they had a steal getting him on a three-year, $27 million deal.

But as the Hornets try to secure consecutive playoff berths, their marquee signing languishes on the bench most nights in and out of head coach Steve Clifford’s rotation. Despite the struggles, Stephenson maintains he has no regrets about his decision to sign on the dotted line last summer.

“Not at all,” Stephenson said, according to an Associated Press report. “I love this system. I love my coaches. I love my teammates. Some people come into systems and fit right in. Some people it takes time. I feel like with me I’m going to take time.”

Stephenson was immediately thrown into the Hornets’ starting lineup to start the season and averaged over 30 minutes of court time in November and December. However since January, Stephenson’s minutes have continued to deteriorate and the veteran is averaging just 18.5 per appearance in March – with a playoff slot hanging in the balance.

Stephenson, who has long been dogged by rumors of immaturity since entering the league, has shown positive growth even with the deteriorating role.

“It’s a coach’s decision and my job is to keep a positive attitude,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson is averaging 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 58 contests. While the stat line isn’t the most gaudy, it does illustrate the guard’s ability to contribute in multiple categories.

“I think the biggest thing for him is he’s 23 and this is the first time he’s gone somewhere different,” Clifford said. “He’s played for the same team and same coach for four years with the same basic offensive and defensive structure.”

McDonald’s All-American Jaylen Brown mulling college and future NBA Draft options

Seeds for the future are being planted and groomed in the present. This becomes ever apparent when watching the annual McDonald’s All-American game, which serves as a showcase for brightest prep stars in the game today. This year’s All-Star showcase is set for April 1.

Hall of Fame guard Magic Johnson headlined the first McDonald’s All-American class back in 1977 and since then the notable alumni serves as a “who’s who” among basketball royalty with such names as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant all donning a McDonald’s All-American uniform.

In due time Jaylen Brown, a smooth 6’7 forward hailing from Georgia, could add his name to the distinguished list. Brown enters the contest at the head of his class with ESPN currently ranking him as the No. 2 overall prospect in their Top 100. Draft Express, on the flip side, has Brown currently projected to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.

As always when you’re at the top of your respective craft, the options are plentiful for Brown, who has yet to commit to a college at this time.

Brown admits the prospect of leaving the comfy confines of “home” as he steps into full adulthood will be a difficult transition

“It is [tough],” Brown told Basketball Insiders on choosing the next path in his journey. “But if that’s what I want then that’s what I will have to do. I’m looking forward to college. I really am, just getting out meeting new people and experiencing new things for myself.  However the ball goes, I’m rolling with it.”

The NBA Draft has become dominated by the presence of underclassmen in recent years with fewer four-year collegiate players being selected in the lucrative lottery positions.

The era of “one and done” has become synonymous with college basketball and coaches have begun altering their recruiting strategies to fully adjust to the phenomenon.

Brown talks fondly of his desire to enjoy his time in college, but is in a strong position to be staring at millions of dollars, and a professional career, a little over a year from now if he has success a freshman.

But Brown doesn’t completely view himself as a “one and done” special, although he readily acknowledges he has heard the NBA buzz surrounding his name.

“I’m not really sure at this point,” Brown responded when asked if he views college as a one year scenario. “I just try to take things one step at a time and what’s next is [the McDonald’s All-American game]. McDonald’s is now and what’s next is national tournament. But if I’m not ready and I feel like that, then I’ll stay. But if not, then I’ll go [pro].”

With the NCAA Tournament winding down, the attention will undoubtedly shift to the next group of future collegiate stars and Brown’s school college decision will become front and center.

Brown has the option of going to a school such as the University of Kentucky, enjoying team success with a plethora of other High School All-Americans and plenty of national television exposure – although, individual statistics and playing time may suffer. Or Brown could opt to go to a situation less crowded and be placed in a position to shoulder a heavier workload.

The options are plentiful for Brown.

“Kentucky is definitely one of the schools that produces a lot of one and done guys, so if that’s what I decide I want then that’s probably the best place for me,” Brown said. “To be honest, Kentucky or somewhere like Kansas. But I’m not sure if that’s what I want or if I’ll be ready to go after one year.”

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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