NBA veteran Lance Stephenson was “99 percent” set to sign with the Pacers this past March before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play until the league’s restart in Orlando, Forbes’ Adam Zagoria writes.
Stephenson, 30, was playing in China for the Liaoning Flying Leopards after signing a one-year pact this past August. In March, it appeared that Stephenson was on track to join Indiana for the third time in his career. However, his agent Reggie Brown confirmed to Zagoria that players who had been in international leagues were not eligible for the Orlando campus, negating the possibility of Stephenson’s NBA return after the hiatus.
“We were in serious conversations for a third-time’s-a-charm return to the Pacers,” Brown said. “We were offered buyout money from the team in China from the Pacers and we were 99 percent done. And then the pandemic took place, and the NBA decided that no overseas players would be allowed to participate in the 22-team bubble return. They would only take players who played last season or this season in the NBA and/or the G League.”
With the Leopards, Stephenson enjoyed a successful campaign, averaging 26.7 PPG and 7.4 RPG before the CBA season was suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Last season, Stephenson suited up for 68 games as a bench piece for the Lakers.