After he failed to draw the attention of rival teams in the 2019 free agency period, Lance Stephenson took his talents to the Chinese Basketball Association following one season as a reserve on the Los Angeles Lakers. But with his overseas stint now complete, a new report suggests that the veteran wing player is eyeing a return to the NBA as a free agent.
Citing unnamed sources, Yahoo Sports‘ Chris Haynes tweeted on Friday (via Bleacher Report) that Stephenson is hoping to sign with an NBA team and “willing to work out to prove his value.” This development comes close to one year after the 29-year-old guard/forward played his last game for the Lakers, who failed to make the playoffs in the 2018-19 campaign despite signing four-time league MVP LeBron James to a four-year contract.
As noted by Bleacher Report, Stephenson had a successful stint with the CBA’s Liaoning Flying Leopards, having signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the team in August 2019. In 29 games, the former second-round draft pick led the Flying Leopards in scoring over 29 games, averaging 26.7 points and adding 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in 34.8 minutes per game. He also shot a solid 52.2 percent from the field during his lone season playing in the CBA.
As one of several role players signed by the Lakers in the summer of 2018 to complement James, Stephenson averaged 7.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 2.1 assists and shot 42.6 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range in the 2018-19 season, per Basketball-Reference.
A journeyman of sorts, the former Cincinnati Bearcats standout has played for six other teams in a nine-year NBA career, which includes the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves. He was, however, most notable for his stint in Indiana, where he played six seasons and averaged 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists for the 2013-14 Pacers, who made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
At the moment, it’s unclear if there are any teams specifically interested in giving Stephenson a chance to work out and possibly signing him for the rest of the 2019-20 season. However, Heavy‘s Sean Deveney speculated that it may be “tough” for the onetime Brooklyn high school star to find a “backer” as he did in the summer of 2018 when James convinced the Lakers to take a chance on his former on-court adversary. This, he added, makes a Lakers return unlikely, especially given the rumors that the team will be signing former Detroit Pistons forward Markieff Morris via the buyout market.