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Sagging Hornets sit Stephenson again

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Updated 10 months ago on
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The 4-12 Hornets extended their losing streak to seven games Wednesday night, and head coach Steve Clifford is still waiting with more patience than most for offseason acquisition Lance Stephenson to contribute.

He was bothered by nagging injuries in the preseason but Clifford believes Stephenson’s biggest issue is overcoming outside expectations.

“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 Wednesday. “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.”

Stephenson never came off the bench for the entire fourth quarter for a second consecutive game. Clifford said Charlotte was better in a 105-97 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that followed a 21-point defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I think I’m getting there, getting more comfortable on the floor,” Stephenson said. “I just need to work harder. Hopefully we can get through it and Coach can figure out what we need to do to win games.”

Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million contract as a free agent in the offseason. He left the Indiana Pacers, who held firm with their offer of about $9 million per season when Stephenson was hoping for a four-year, $50 million deal.

Stephenson averaged 13.8 points per game with the Pacers last season. He’s averaging 9.7 points but leads the Hornets with 8.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

Clifford said he was honest with Stephenson about reaching the star stratosphere many projected him to reach as a third piece on a Hornets team with Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker.

“I’ve been fortunate,” Clifford said. “I’ve been around Kobe (Bryant) and (Tracy) McGrady. They were superstars. I was also around Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. They were two-, three-year All-Stars. (Stephenson has) got a lot of work to get to that level. Everybody proclaimed him as this guy, and if you remember the first time we got him, I said he’s got to develop into that.”

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