Hornets Recruit Winner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Lance Stephenson doesn’t want to be known as the guy who blew in LeBron James’ ear.

Stephenson said during his introductory news conference Friday in Charlotte he’s “a little upset” that the ear-blowing incident in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami is how some people have defined him as a player.

“I feel like it overshadowed my play on the court,” Stephenson said. “I bring more to the table than just blowing in someone’s ear. I’m a great player.”

Hornets general manager Rich Cho agrees, which is why the club signed Stephenson to a three-year, $27 million contract Friday. The deal includes a team option for the third season.

Cho says the 23-year-old Stephenson brings competitiveness, scoring ability, a defensive presence and a wealth of playoff experience – all things the Hornets need to take the next step and become a perennial playoff contender.

“I think he’ll be a great fit,” Cho said.

The Hornets, who ranked near the bottom of the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage last season, expect Stephenson will help them in that area. Stephenson shot 35 percent from beyond the arc last season. He also proved versatile in other ways.

He led the NBA with five triple-doubles and posted career highs in points (13.6), rebounds (6.9) and assists (4.2).

But Stephenson’s intense competitiveness also has a dark side.

He was called for 17 technical fouls last season – third-most in the NBA – and was also involved in a practice scuffle with teammate Evan Turner. He’s been known to talk trash, occasionally taking himself out of the game and hurting his team.


CHICAGO (AP) – Pau Gasol talked to Joakim Noah when the Chicago Bulls traveled to Los Angeles to recruit the free-agent center. He spoke with Derrick Rose over the phone, and Mike Dunleavy also reached out to the 7-foot veteran.

What Gasol found was a hungry team in search of a championship, and it was enough to convince the skilled Spaniard to trade the warmth of Southern California for the cold winters of the Windy City.

Gasol and newcomer Nikola Mirotic were at the United Center on Friday for a pair of press conferences announcing their new contracts. The 34-year-old Gasol begins his 14th NBA season with career averages of 18.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists, and the 6-10 Mirotic joins the Bulls after a successful final season with Real Madrid.

“It was a gut feeling. I thought Chicago was going to be the best fit for me,” Gasol said. “It’s a great challenge, but I’m driven by challenge. I look forward to it.”


CLEVELAND (AP) – LeBron James has to make another big decision.

He turned to social media Friday to help him choose which number he’ll wear next season. James wrote “6 or 23….” on his Twitter account and posted photos on Instagram of him wearing No. 6 and No. 23 wine and gold Cavs jerseys.

James wore No. 6 during his four seasons with Miami and also on the U.S. Olympic team. He used No. 23 in high school and during seven seasons in Cleveland.

James has had the top-selling jersey in the NBA six times during his career.

His return to Cleveland has given the city a boost, and the Cavs quickly sold out their seasons tickets in the hours after.