Hornets' Lance Stephenson needs to grow up, show more consistent effort

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Lance Stephenson is probably best known as the guy who blew in LeBron James' ear, trying to throw the superstar off and launching a thousand memes.

But before he was that guy, he was a child superstar, ranked as one of the top players in his class throughout high school and before as a member of the Lincoln High School Railsplitters in New York.

But, while Stephenson has panned out better than Sebastian Telfair – the Railsplitter star guard who preceded him – Stephenson still hasn't become an NBA star.

That's hard for guys like Stephenson and Telfair, who were coddled their entire basketball lives for their basketball-playing ability, though they grew up in a tough area outside of basketball.

Stephenson had his high school jersey retired over the 2013 offseason, where it hangs next to Telfair's in the Coney Island school, and it celebrates him as the top-scoring New York high school player ever with 2,946 points.

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The problem is that, after signing a three-year, $27 million deal in the offseason he came to Charlotte and isn't a star yet on a bad team.

Stephenson isn't used to losing, and he's not used to being a secondary option on a team with guys like Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker.

"To be fair, one of the things that's made it more difficult for him is that he came here and people proclaimed him as the next superstar," Hornets coach Steve Clifford told "He's not a star. He's a guy that has talent to become a star. To be a star in this league, you have to do it over years."

How bad are they?

It's easy to see that the Eastern Conference is the inferior conference. The Bulls sit at third place in the East and wouldn't even be in the playoffs in the Western Conference.

That just puts into perspective how bad teams like Philadelphia (0-15), Detroit (3-12), Charlotte (4-12) and the Knicks (4-12) really are.

Stephenson has struggled with injuries but has also often found himself in Clifford's dog house, witting the entire fourth quarter on Wednesday as Charlotte lost its seventh straight game.

"I'm not hurt. I'm healthy," Stephenson told, which said that Stephenson has 'seen his playing time reduced over each of the past five games.' "There are no more excuses. Hey, it's Coach's decision if he doesn't want to play me in the fourth [quarter]. I'm just going to continue to work hard and do what it takes to win games."

How good can he be?

Clifford, either straight up or through veiled references, continues to point out that Stephenson needs to mature and show consistency before he will get more playing time or become more of a contributor.

"It's different. It's not easy," Clifford told "He started two years before he got here. He played on a really good team, so everybody saw him play when no one else was playing. When Al Jefferson came here, he'd [averaged] 19 [points] and eight [rebounds] for like 10 years. You knew what you were going to get. And that's what Lance needs to become. In many ways it's not fair."

Clifford said he has worked with plenty of superstars, so he has a good frame of reference on what it takes to be one.

"I've told [Stephenson] this," Clifford told "I've been fortunate. I've been around Kobe [Bryant] and [Tracy] McGrady. They were superstars. I was also around Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. They were two-, three-year All-Stars. [Stephenson has] got a lot of work to get to that level. Everybody proclaimed him as this guy, and if you remember the first time we got him, I said he's got to develop into that."

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