NBA Takeaways: Lance Stephenson Shifts Balance of Power
By Erik Lambert
May 26, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) goes to the bench against the Miami Heat in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
News around the NBA continues to roll in with more than a few juicy tidbits. What should fans takeaway from the action?
Charlotte weakens Indiana Pacers by nabbing Stephenson
The Eastern Conference by far has undergone the most changes over the past month. Miami is all but out of the title picture. Cleveland is in it after not making the playoffs in seven years. Now the Indiana Pacers, considered one of the favorite to reach the Finals, watched one of their key players depart for a new team. Lance Stephenson had career year in 2013-2014, averaging 13.8 points, 4.6 assists and 7.2 rebounds. He led the league in triple doubles and was also a top defender. After declining a five-year, $44 million deal to stay in Indiana, Stephenson chose to join the Charlotte Hornets three years at $27 million. His loss greatly impacts the Pacers’ title chances, especially given the problems that surfaced in the playoffs last season.
Mike Miller additions helps LeBron James with shooting and experience
Meanwhile the Cleveland Cavaliers stayed busy by signing 34-year old small forward Mike Miller. The veteran turned down more money from Denver to join the Cavs at the behest of LeBron James, a close friend and former teammate in Miami. Miller not only brings his experience and championship pedigree to a very young Cleveland roster. He also adds a career 41% three-point shooting margin. That is something the Cavs badly need and will make life for LeBron that much easier as he tries to finish what he couldn’t during his first stint with the team.
Dwyane Wade legacy is secure for the Miami Heat
One thing often referred to about James is his legacy. People around the NBA will always question the validity of his place as the best player of all time. Part of the reason for that was his unwillingness to stick it out with his original team. While LeBron elected to join a different team in order to get his rings, past greats like Jordan, Robinson, Olajuwon, and Bird all stuck it out through tough times early in their career to eventually reach the mountain top. That is one problem that former James teammate Dwyane Wade won’t have to worry about. After signing a new contract, the ten-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion in all likelihood will retire with the team that originally drafted him. His legacy won’t have any such asterisks.
Warriors not seeing big picture with Kevin Love
According to reports, trade talks heated up again between the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves regarding All-Star Kevin Love. However, the same impasse that prevented a deal before remains in place. The Warriors are unwilling to make sharpshooting guard Klay Thompson part of the package for Love. What makes this troublesome for the team is that management is doing it despite requests from new head coach Steve Kerr. Certainly one can understand reluctance on the Thompson issue, but the Warriors hired Kerr to get their team over the hump. As a player he won five championships, so he had a front row seat to see how such teams were made. His insistence to secure the services of Love despite the loss of Thompson should be sending a clear signal. The fact it’s not getting through is an eye-opener.