After the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million deal in 2018 NBA free agency, their first move was signing Lance Stephenson shortly after.
Despite their battles in the Eastern Conference, former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka wanted to surround James with ‘tough-minded’ playmakers and Stephenson fit that.
As it became evident the Lakers needed three-point shooters over playmakers, Stephenson tried his best and shot a team-best 37.1% but only on 2.9 attempts per game.
Although the Lakers still have one roster spot, Stephenson reportedly has signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Liaoning, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Free agent guard Lance Stephenson has reached a one-year, $4 million agreement with Liaoning of the Chinese Basketball Association, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 1, 2019
Since the Lakers could still use another small forward, it appears they are waiting for Andre Igudoala to be bought out for now, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“…But leaving a spot open to potentially get Andre Iguodala if he is bought out of his 17.2 million deal.”
During Stephenson’s stint in Los Angeles, he provided plenty of entertainment as the Lakers missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. While the 28-year-old was solid, he is taking his air guitar celebrations to China now.
And at this time, it is unclear if Stephenson has the option to potentially return to the league at some point of the 2019-20 NBA season like others who decided to play in China.
As for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka and company recovered well immediately after Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Although they accomplished their goal of two All-Star players, it was just as important to surround them with the right players.
While there is parity in the league for the first time in five seasons, the Lakers are legitimate championship contenders. And if they are able to sign Iguodala, it will only strengthen their chances to win the 2020 NBA Finals.