The Indiana Pacers were unable to retain Lance Stephenson, which is something the front office knew might happen. What surprised long-time franchise builder Donnie Walsh, however, was how they lost him.
He figured that, due to the Pacers` inability to throw around crazy sums of money while staying below the luxury tax threshold, Stephenson might get lured away by big dollars.
What Walsh didn´t expect was for Stephenson to leave for a deal like the one he signed to play for the Charlotte Hornets.
These were his comments in an interview with Brian Geltzeiler and Noah Coslov on SiriusXM NBA Radio this weekend.
On if he was surprised about Stephenson taking a shorter deal for less money:
“I was surprised at that to be quite honest. I was worried about Lance in that there are a lot of teams out there with big money and when you get into the free-agent period, usually teams will over extend themselves because they know to get a guy away from another team, it’s going to take probably more money than if you were in a straight negotiation with the player. So I was expecting some real high numbers, which we’d try to react to. And that didn’t happen.
“We gave him the top number we could’ve given him thinking, ‘This is the most money we can give you.’ And so we gave it to him. And when he didn’t take that, I was thinking he was probably going to get a big number. As it turned out, he got about the same as three years (with us), no two years really. It’s a two-year deal with an option on the part of the team for the third year. That surprised me. I kind of get his thinking, but I was surprised that he did that.”
Donnie Walsh also discussed the players that the team got in hopes of replacing Stephenson´s production.
On losing Lance Stephenson in free agency:
“Look, we wanted to keep Lance. We felt like he did a lot of really positive things for our team, and that the amount of things he did would be hard to replace them in one player. But having had that happen, I think we came out about as well as we could’ve hoped by getting C.J. Miles and [Rodney] Stuckey. Stuckey is a playmaker and can take over that part of what Lance did on occasion for us. And plus, he’s a solid player. I hope this is a good environment for him because I think he’ll thrive in a good environment.
“And C.J. Miles is a guy that can score the ball. He certainly did against us. He got 21 in a quarter against us last year in one game. So we know he can shoot it. He’s a 3-point shooter, but he can do more than that. He can play. So we have two good guys to replace Lance, and then we have Paul George, who’s a wing player, and we have Solomon Hill, who’s also a really good player. [He's] a rookie that we think can defend in this league for sure, and maybe do more, but he hasn’t played yet. These guys, I think, are going to be good for us.
“So we think we’re going to have a good team. Like any team anywhere, at this point, you probably have talent but you have to become a team, and that will be our challenge – to become a team with this group of guys. We have been on occasion this year and definitely the year before. We became a very good team and probably were better as a whole than we were in the parts.”