The Nets have reportedly been looking into a shakeup, and the latest has them looking at sending Brook Lopez to the Charlotte Hornets, in a trade that would likely net them embattled guard and Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson, according to a report from Alex Raskin of the Wall Street Journal. The report says the Nets are “monitoring” the situation in Charlotte.
Lopez makes a tick under $7 million more than Stephenson, and since both teams are over the salary cap, the Nets would have to take back additional salary to make the deal work. The Hornets have a whole host of players that would fit into a deal, from rookie Noah Vonleh to veteran swingman Marvin Williams, depending on how much salary the Nets look to shed and what the Hornets are willing to part with to get themselves rid of Stephenson. The Nets could also inquire about a draft pick to replenish their depleted stash, but that seems unlikely.
Both Lopez and Stephenson are in the midst of down years. Lopez has struggled to re-integrate himself into the Nets offense after missing nearly a full year with foot injuries, and will have missed two weeks of playing time with a lower back strain. He has averaged 16.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his 16 starts, shooting a career-low 48.8 percent from the field. Stephenson has clashed with Charlotte’s organization, as last year’s playoff team has tumbled out to a 6-18 start, including a 27-point loss to the Nets last week, and the team is reportedly already looking at ways to shop him.
I wrote about the potential of the Nets acquiring Stephenson (for Joe Johnson) last week, when the news originally broke that the Nets had considered parting with their “Big 3” of Johnson, Lopez, and Deron Williams. Stephenson makes sense for them if they get last year’s version, a dynamic playmaker and defensive anchor that could get under opponents’ skin.
But Stephenson also has a checkered past, and the Nets have placed value on high-character guys in recent years. Their last reclamation project, Andray Blatche, played two of the best seasons of his career in Brooklyn, but soured the front office so badly with his off-court indiscretions that no one in the league would even take a flyer on him. Blatche is now playing in China. Stephenson has been a bit of a nuisance wherever he’s gone, and had brush-ups with the law early in life, with a sexual assault charge in 2009 and a domestic violence incident in 2010. (The charge was later dismissed.) He could feel a new level of comfort in his home borough, or he could fall off the rails entirely. Anyone who can tell you they know for sure with him is probably selling you a dream.
Stephenson grew up in Coney Island, where he led Lincoln High School to four straight city basketball championships. He is the state’s all-time leading scorer in high school.