Lance Stephenson joins Clippers: Reputation that precedes me 'not me'

LOS ANGELES -- Lance Stephenson knows his perception around the league isn't exactly pristine and he's hoping to change that this season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

"I'm going to work hard this season to get those rumors out," Stephenson said as he was formally introduced as a Clipper at a news conference at the team's training facility on Thursday. "That's not the issue. I'm very good in the locker room. You can ask all the players that I've played with. You can ask the coaches. I'm very good in the locker room.

"When I'm on the court I got that type of energy where it looks like I'm yelling at somebody. But when I talk to my teammates it amps them and makes them work harder. I want to take that [negative] title off my name because that's not me. I'm a good locker room guy."

The Clippers traded Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes to the Charlotte Hornets for Stephenson on Monday and he arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday and passed his physical on Wednesday.

Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Hornets last summer that includes a team option for the final year, so the Clippers would be on the hook for only this upcoming season if Stephenson doesn't pan out.

The Clippers have been trying to upgrade at the wing for years, and since they are essentially at the cap now, the only way to significantly upgrade the position is through a trade.

Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers nearly traded for Stephenson last season but backed out of the talks, knowing the deal would still be available in the offseason. He envisions Stephenson being a utility player off the bench who is able to play multiple positions.

"I'm excited to have him here," Rivers said. "We've been looking at Lance longer than just this summer because of the dual roles he can play. I think he has the ability defensively to play three positions -- the point, the two and the three. Offensively with his ball handling ability and his ability to play in the open court and his power, I think it fits our team very well."

Stephenson, who will wear No. 15 with the Clippers, said he would be fine coming off the bench or starting and is just happy to be back with a championship contending team again.

Stephenson, 24, struggled in his first season with the Hornets, averaging 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists while starting just 25 of the 61 games he played.

The Clippers believe he can regain the form he had in Indiana. Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists while starting 78 games two years ago for a Pacers team that won 56 games and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

"I'm here to win basketball games, whatever it takes to win," Stephenson said. "If I have to come off the bench, if I have to start, I'm here to do whatever it takes to win and I trust [Rivers'] decisions and I'm just happy to be here."

Stephenson said he believes his struggles last season, where he shot just 17 percent from 3-point range after shooting over 35 percent the previous season, were an aberration and is looking forward to a fresh start in Los Angeles.

"It was a tough season," Stephenson said. "It was a struggle for me but I just want to put that behind me and I'm looking forward to a great season now. ... I play to win and I'll do whatever it takes to win. I'm just happy to be with a group of guys that are going to be behind. They're great leaders and All-Star players and I can follow behind their footsteps. I just want to play with a group of guys that want to win."

Rivers drove to Stephenson's introductory press conference from Hollywood where he joined longtime announcer Ralph Lawler and former player Jason Hart in passing out shirts with the team's new logo outside of Pink's Hot Dogs.

"I like the logo," Rivers said. "You know what's funny, I saw it earlier in the year but honestly when they showed it to me I was more concerned with trying to figure out how to win a game then. I just like change. I'm a big believer in it. I think it's nice. What I like most, Steve Ballmer is the new owner and now he has a new logo and I think that's neat. I think it's good."

Several former players, including Cuttino Mobley, Lamond Murray, Gary Grant, Pooh Richardson, Olden Polynice and Darrick Martin, helped pass out the new shirts at 32 different locations around Los Angeles and greater Southern California on Thursday. It was the first big step toward developing an alumni network among former players, which was seemingly lacking when Donald Sterling was the owner. Rivers said it was a priority of his during the offseason.

"We don't have a history and we're trying to build one," Rivers said. "It's going to be a piece by piece thing. We've reached out to just about every former player, whether they've played a year or five years here because no one's really played more than that with the Clippers organization. A lot of guys are coming back and we want to do even more with San Diego and Buffalo. We really want to reach out and we're going to try to do that."

Rivers said the Stephenson addition was the first of several moves the Clippers have planned this offseason. Moves that he thinks will be easier to sell to players with an owner in place as opposed to last season when the Clippers ownership was still up in the air into August.

"Last year was tough even though we knew or thought Steve would be the owner, we didn't really know and it made it very difficult, especially in recruiting," Rivers said. "When other teams are bringing their owner out and talking to players, I came with some flowers and said, 'He'll be here, I swear.' It was a middle of a court case and I heard from several veterans that they didn't want to take the chance. Now it's clear. We know who we are and we know who's running the team."