Look, I get it.
You read the headline and -- being a wise, well-informed basketball fan -- probably thought something along the lines of Why would the Nets want another overpaid, inconsistent "star?" as you emphatically air-quote the final word.
Good question. Give it a chance.
After leading the league in triple-doubles last season, Lance Stephenson left the Indiana Pacers for a three-year, $27 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Having spent four years in Indy as a sparkplug role player, "Born Ready" had his eyes on stardom as the leader of a playoff-hopeful Charlotte team.
"One of the reasons why I admire his game is he takes on challenges," Hornets owner Michael Jordan said at the time of the signing, per The Associated Press. "For us to get any place in the East, we need someone to challenge LeBron. He challenged LeBron."
"I saw that a lot with Jordan," Stephenson said of his new boss after putting pen to paper. "There were games where he was losing and he came out of nowhere and just started destroying the other team. That is the type of guy I am. I'm going to try to bring that type of mentality to this team."
So far, the 24-year-old has averaged just 9.0 points (37.1 percent), 5.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 2014-15. And to top it off, the 22-30 Hornets have been a colossal disappointment.
The Nets are in even more trouble. With a superstar in Al Jefferson, the Hornets are young and have tons of room to grow.
But Brooklyn, a team trying to walk a dangerous tightrope toward the playoffs, has a present devoid of color. It wouldn’t be bad idea for Billy King to just let the entire payroll self-destruct and then start over in 2017. That might be the plan.
The 21-31 Nets currently rank 18th in attendance, according to ESPN.com -- 18th! For a team in one of the biggest markets in the universe, that’s a bit of an embarrassment. To pour hot acid into that wound, the rival Knicks are tied for seventh.
Even worse, the Nets have the lowest local TV ratings in the entire league. The team doesn’t crack the top 10 in merchandise sales -- after ranking No. 4 in their first season in Brooklyn -- and they don’t have a player in top-15 jersey list, either.
Can you really blame Nets fans, though?
Deron Williams has gone on the record saying that he doesn’t "really feel like a New Yorker" although that was a bit out of context. Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson and are highly skilled and hardworking, but they’re not headliners.
Who else? Mason Plumlee might be the easiest Net to root for, but even he’s just a high-octane role player and not a superstar.
Enter Stephenson -- the trash-talking, cut-your-throat native of Coney Island who made a name for himself at Lincoln High School and who has said "It would be a blessing" to suit up for his hometown team.
"With me, it’s all mental. I feel like once I get mentally into it, coming back to get that hunger," Stephenson told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News over the weekend. "Cause sometimes you lose your hunger. You’ve been doing it for so long you forget all the hard work that got you here. So I’m just getting back on that, getting focused."
At his absolute best, Stephenson is one of the toughest matchups in the game. His time in Charlotte has felt forced -- Kemba Walker is the ball-dominant leader and Jefferson is the star. Stephenson rarely has a chance to steal the show.
Coming to Brooklyn would give him his own stage. Playing professionally in the same area that he learned how to dribble, pass, shoot and talk trash would absolutely give new life to the "hunger" that’s made him the player he is.
"Just play ball," he said. "That’s all I have to do."
Stephenson won’t come without baggage. For all his hustle and effort and heart, he’ll bring a scroll of past locker room issues and clashes with teammates. It wasn't just in Indiana, either. The shooting guard has experienced similar trouble in Charlotte.
Here’s a telling sentiment:
Weekend Trade Rumble: Heard various Pacers were asked if Indy should try to bring Lance Stephenson back. Response NOT one of encouragement— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 22, 2014
Though it's a bit intimidating, the risk of bringing in Stephenson pales in comparison to the potential reward. Let’s say he comes to the Nets and causes problems -- is the team any worse off than before? Nope, right back to where it started.
Lionel Hollins will not put up with any of his antics, though, and neither will Kevin Garnett. If anything, those guys will help keep his head on straight.
It’d be foolish to pretend that Stephenson doesn’t have a shaky track record. It’d be even more foolish to allow that determine whether he comes to Brooklyn or not.
There have been multiple scenarios discussed involving Stephenson, but nothing came close. The Nets are a bit gun-shy when considering a loose cannon.
As long as the deal isn’t completely one-sided, it doesn’t matter who King gives up to get Stephenson before the Thursday deadline.
Fans need to have a jersey they’ll wear with pride. The love and cheers from every crack and crevice of Barclays Center for the hometown kid will be almost unending thanks to the notion that he’s one of us.
TV ratings, merchandise sales and overall fan morale could jump ... at least for a while. It's a Brooklyn thing.
Not every team needs a hometown player -- look at the love that those guys get, though, namely LeBron James in Cleveland and Derrick Rose in Chicago.
Stephenson isn’t that caliber of player. But he is good enough to revive basketball in a place that needs one of its own to save the day.