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NBA PM: Hornets Taking Next Step With Stephenson?

With the addition of Lance Stephenson, the Charlotte Hornets are hoping to become one of the East’s elite teams.

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Hornets Taking Next Step With Lance Stephenson?

When Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker found out that the Charlotte Hornets had signed Lance Stephenson in July, they couldn’t hide their excitement.

Charlotte won 43 games last year, which was 15 more wins than they had in their previous two seasons combined. Now, they’re hoping that the addition of Stephenson will take them to the next level and allow them to become a contender in the Eastern Conference.

“The thing about Lance is he’s been where were trying to get to; he’s been to the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row and he knows what it takes,” Jefferson told NBA TV. “When I found out he was coming, I was very excited about that because he could help us get to that next level. I really think that he has been misunderstood. I think that’s the passion that he has for the game; I’d rather a guy have too much passion than not enough passion. Lance is the type of guy that’s going to play hard if he’s down 20 points or up 20 points. That’s the type of guy you want to go to war with every night, that’s the type of guy you want to fight with every night.”

Stephenson was one of the Indiana Pacers’ most important players last year, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists while shooting 49.1 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range – all of which were career-highs. It was a breakout year for Stephenson and he even received All-Star consideration in the first half of the season. At times, his antics seemed to overshadow his production, but there’s no disputing that he was a key contributor for Indiana.

At 24 years old, he still has room to grow as a player and he believes he can take another huge step forward this year in Charlotte. When negotiations with the Pacers stalled over the offseason, he turned to the Hornets and ultimately inked a three-year deal worth $27 million to play in Charlotte.

I chose Charlotte because the city, the people and the team,” Stephenson told Hornets.com. “I looked at the team and I was like, ‘Man, I could fit right in.’ And at the same time, being under Michael Jordan, who was my idol growing up. When we were having the first meeting, I was just sitting there in total awe like, ‘Am I really talking to Michael Jordan, the guy who I had all over my walls growing up?’ I’m just happy to be here and bring the team back to what it once was.”

Stephenson believes that Charlotte has what it takes to compete at a high level. Last year, the Hornets finished with the sixth-best defense in the NBA, allowing 101.2 points per 100 possessions. Stephenson and his teammates are determined to be an elite defensive team once again.

“I’m very excited just to be able to be playing with these guys while having fun and being able to change the program so we can win,” Stephenson said. “I love winning. I can even tell the media is excited to see how we are going to play this year. We are going to be bringing that defense out. Our defense was close to number one last year so we are going to try to do that again this year and work on our offense.”

Stephenson is ecstatic to play alongside Jefferson, who was one of the best big men in the NBA last season, and Walker, who he has known dating all the way back to their battles against one another in high school.

I feel like we can help each other out,” Stephenson said of teaming up with Jefferson. “When Big Al is in the post, you might as well just say it’s two points. And with Kemba, I don’t think there has ever been a New York backcourt in the league as dynamic as us. … [Teaming up with Kemba], especially at this level, it’s a dream come true.”

In recent years, Stephenson has become a nightly triple-double threat. His five triple-doubles last season led the NBA, and he says he’ll take the same approach to fill the stat sheet again this year.

I’ve always liked getting the rebound and pushing the ball just to make something happen,” Stephenson said. “Whatever happens after I grab the rebound and push it up the court is what lets me gets triple-doubles and easy buckets. In high school, I never did the type of stuff I can do now. I really didn’t have an identity coming into the NBA so I had to figure out what I could do to help my team win. Everyone respects my game now so I guess I found my identity and I’ll keep rolling with it.”

Prior to last season, Charlotte was a laughingstock around the NBA with the team’s low point being the 2011-12 season when they won just seven games and posted the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history. Now, Stephenson sees that the Hornets are determined to reach their full potential. Making the playoffs is no longer good enough – they want to make some noise in the postseason.

“Everyone was basically working out together about a month before training camp even started, and I can see it in everyone’s eyes that we are ready for this season and everyone feels like we’ve got something to prove,” Stephenson said. “When everyone feels like that, it shows on the floor.”

“You kind of see it happening right before your eyes,” Jefferson said of the team’s progress. “Between the All-Star break last season all the way up to now with the new names coming in, you can just feel the energy in the city now. People are really excited to see Charlotte Hornets basketball start this season. We had a little success last year, but we’re really hungry just to see how far we can go this season with [our] motivation and dedication. We’re determined to just build off of last year.”

The addition of Stephenson will certainly help Charlotte continue their momentum, especially if he can take his game to another level once again this season.

NBA Officially Announces Lucrative New TV Deal

The NBA has expanded its partnerships with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company through new, nine-year agreements under which ABC, TNT, and ESPN will televise NBA games beginning with the 2016-17 season and running through the 2024-25 season. Reports have indicated that the deal is worth around $24 billion over nine years. For how this will affect the NBA, check out Steve Kyler’s latest article.

Under the agreements, the partners will televise more national regular-season games (ABC/ESPN: 100; Turner: 64) and will continue to do so generally on Wednesdays (ESPN), Thursdays (TNT), Fridays (ESPN), and Sundays (ABC/ESPN).  By the end of these new agreements, the NBA’s partnership will reach 41 years with Turner, while the league’s relationship with ABC/ESPN will extend to 23 years.  Additionally, NBA TV’s Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Saturday game telecasts will continue to fill out the schedule, ensuring a full week of nationally televised games.  The NBA’s 24-hour network will present over 100 regular-season games each year.

The NBA and Turner will also continue their groundbreaking partnership to manage jointly the NBA’s digital assets including NBA TV, NBA.com, NBA Mobile, NBA LEAGUE PASS, and WNBA.com, which Turner operates out of its Atlanta production facility.  TNT will also debut the first-ever NBA Awards Show, an annual event which will air at the end of the season, and will have expanded activation opportunities surrounding key NBA pillars such as Opening Night and NBA All-Star Week.

Under the agreement, ESPN will be granted enhanced digital rights to provide NBA content for multiple ESPN platforms, including ESPN.com and WatchESPN. Beginning with the 2016-17 season, for the first time, at least 20 NBA Development League games and NBA Summer League games will be seen on the ESPN television networks.

“The Walt Disney Company and Turner Broadcasting share responsibility for the growing popularity and interest the NBA enjoys, and we are thrilled to extend our partnerships,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.  “With these new agreements, our fans will continue to benefit from the outstanding NBA coverage and programming provided by ABC, ESPN, TNT, NBA TV and their digital platforms.”

“These nine-year extensions with Disney and Turner recognize the extraordinary value of live premium sports,” Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said. “On behalf of our Media Committee and the other team owners, we thank Disney and Turner for their commitment to the NBA and its fans.”

“This is a significant deal for our company and we are pleased to continue our long-standing partnership with the NBA, its fans, owners and players,” Turner Broadcasting System President David Levy said.  “The agreement locks in some of the most valuable, original, premium live sports programming that we’ll continue to monetize across TNT and all other platforms within our extensive portfolio and will help further grow our businesses into the next decade.”

”The NBA has never been more popular globally and it continues to grow under Adam’s leadership,” ESPN President and Disney Media Networks Co-Chairman John Skipper said.  “By acquiring significantly more NBA content on both existing and yet-to-be created platforms, we will establish a vibrant year-round relationship with the NBA and bolster what is already the sports industry’s most impressive and impactful collection of media rights.”

Here are 10 things to know about the NBA’s new TV deal, including how it will impact free agency, the salary cap, team valuations and much more.

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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