Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Brand, Magic

The Heat will take on LeBron James and his Cavaliers in Saturday’s preseason game for the first time since he left to return to Cleveland, but the sentiments between James and those he left behind in Miami aren’t as raw as the feeling between new Wizards forward Paul Pierce and the Nets. Pierce and his former team have conflicting stories about just what led to his departure, but the Wizards are surely glad about whatever it is that pried the 16-year veteran from Brooklyn. Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Lance Stephenson cried when he told Pacers he was signing with the Hornets instead this summer, as he admits to Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling, but a surprise appearance by owner Michael Jordan in the team’s meeting helped seal the pitch. “When I shook [Jordan’s] hand, I was shaking,” Stephenson said. “I was very nervous because that’s like everybody in the world who played basketball’s idol. I thought I would never meet Michael Jordan, but when I finally met him and talked to him and got to know him, that was the best feeling ever.”
  • Kemba Walker‘s endorsement of Stephenson, whom he played against for years when they were both growing up in New York City, helped convince the Hornets to pursue the free agent shooting guard this year, as Zwerling details in the same piece.
  • Elton Brand‘s ability to guard opposing centers is the chief reason why the Hawks brought him back, and familiarity is what led the 35-year-old to choose Atlanta over a handful of other suitors this summer, as he tells Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic are starting their seasons by making strong impressions in Orlando, writes Ken Hornack of FOX Sports Florida. Timing is everything for these players as they have until the end of the month to sign extensions to their rookie contracts. Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t letting his players get distracted by their pending contract statuses. “My message to them has been I’m going to coach you. No matter if you’re in a contract year or your first year in the league. I’m going to coach you the same. Hopefully that puts a little bit of ease underneath their wings in the sense of, ‘Just go play basketball,’“ Vaughn said.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

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