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AP Source: Hornets land SG Stephenson

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By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Lance Stephenson is bringing his swag to Charlotte.

The controversial shooting guard has agreed to a $27 million, three-year deal with the Hornets, according to a person familiar with the contract. The deal includes a team option for the third season.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the deal has not yet been made public. The person says Stephenson is expected to be introduced at a press conference Friday.

Stephenson wrote on Twitter: "Indy, I had a great 4 years. Thank you Larry Bird, the fans, my coaches and teammates for the incredible experience. I will never forget any of you! I now have to look to the next phase of my career and the wonderful opportunity to continue to grow as a player and as a person in Charlotte! I'm excited to play for this franchise and the fans!! #buzzcity."

Stephenson met with Hornets owner Michael Jordan and other members of the organization Tuesday night in Las Vegas to make sure he was a good fit before agreeing to the deal.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson a five-year, $44 million contract but he chose to sign for fewer years.

"While we tried our best to come to the best possible terms for both sides, there was not sufficient flexibility in the terms of the contract, particularly the length of the contract," his agent Alberto Ebanks said in a statement. "Lance will miss the city, the team and the mentor who helped transform him into the dynamic player he has become. He looks forward to making a strong contribution and beginning a new chapter with the Charlotte Hornets.

"Lance is forever grateful for all the love he's received from Pacers fans. He is especially grateful to his teammates, Frank Vogel, Herb Simon, the Pacers management and most of all, Larry Bird."

The 6-foot-5 Stephenson is coming off his best NBA season, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He led the league with five triple-doubles.

Just as important, Stephenson brings some needed playoff experience and toughness to a team an organization that failed to win a postseason game during the past 10 seasons. Stephenson averaged 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in 40.2 minutes per game during the Eastern Conference finals.

Stephenson was not Charlotte's first choice.

The Hornets turned their attention to Stephenson after Utah matched its offer to restricted free agent Gordon Hayward.

Stephenson certainly comes with his share of issues.

Outspoken and emotional, Stephenson had 17 technical fouls last season - third-most in the NBA. He plays the game with confidence, intensity and toughness.

During the Eastern Conference playoffs he challenged LeBron James and the Miami Heat with his words and later whispered in James' ear during Game 5. Miami won the series. He was also involved in a scuffle after practice with teammate Evan Turner during the playoffs.

Still, the Hornets couldn't ignore Stephenson's shooting, upgrading a team that finished in the bottom third of the league in 3-pointers made and 3-point field goal percentage.

The 23-year-old Stephenson shot 49 percent from the field last season and 35 percent from 3-point range. He is a 32.5 percent shooter from 3-point land for his career.

Gerald Henderson was last year's starting shooting guard. But with the addition of Stephenson and first-round draft pick P.J. Hairston it's unclear if the team will try to move Henderson this offseason.

Stephenson, who has averaged 9.1 points per game for his career, will leave a big hole on the Pacers roster.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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