- Courtesy: NBA/Pacers
"I really feel bad about losing him," said Bird. "It's just disappointing. When I'd go to practices, when he was on, he was by far our best player. And he worked. If you work as hard as he does, you're going to get better. I'm going to miss the kid, no question."
According to USA Today the Pacers offered a five-year, $44 million contract. Stephenson declined the Pacers offer and accepted a three-year, $27 million contract from the Hornets.
Bird said his $44 million offer was a demonstration of his trust in Stephenson's growth and development.
"Even if he didn't have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid," said Bird. "If you look at our roster, we have five or six guys in the last year of their deals, plus David [West] and Roy [Hibbert] can opt out, so don't you think I wanted to keep Lance and Paul [George] locked into long-term deals?"
Last year was considered a break out year for Stephenson, who led the league in triple-doubles and averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assist as reported by ESPN.