Coach Frank Vogel appreciated Lance Stephenson’s enthusiasm and love for the game during his time with the Indiana Pacers.
Now Vogel hopes his banged-up team can limit that enjoyment Wednesday night when Stephenson returns to Indianapolis for the first time since leaving for the Charlotte Hornets.
Stephenson, a second-round pick by the Pacers in 2010, developed into a starter for Indiana teams that reached the Eastern Conference finals in the past two seasons.
After averaging career highs of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 78 starts in 2013-14, Stephenson signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Hornets in the offseason.
“I’m always happy for Lance, for him and his family, (for him) to be able to grow as a player,” Indiana center Roy Hibbert said. “But we have to move on. It’s going to be a battle on Wednesday.”
Stephenson averaged 8.0 points and 30.6 percent shooting while going 1 of 12 from 3-point range in his first seven games with Charlotte (4-7). He showed signs of turning things around with 14.3 points and 53.1 percent shooting in a three-game stretch before scoring six in a 107-80 home loss to Dallas on Monday.
Vogel wants to prevent the guard from having a fulfilling homecoming as the Pacers try for their 11th straight home victory in the series.
“He likes to have fun on the basketball court and that’s something we always loved about him, how much he enjoys the game of basketball and his interaction with the fans,” he said. “I think with Lance, in general, the motto is always expect the unexpected.”
The Pacers (4-7) have won three of four, limiting opponents to 83.7 points and 42.7 percent shooting while outrebounding them 143-99 in the victories. They held Chicago to a 42.2 field-goal percentage and owned a 46-34 advantage on the boards in Saturday’s 99-90 road win.
A.J. Price, Luis Scola and Solomon Hill scored 21 points apiece. Price is staying for another 10-day stint after the Pacers were granted a second injury hardship relief exception.
Paul George, George Hill, C.J. Watson and David West remain sidelined, and Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles are likely to be game-time decisions against the Hornets. Their return would help ease the workload on fill-in starter Donald Sloan, who is second on the team with 32.6 minutes per game and ranks among league leaders with 989 touches.
Charlotte, 1-5 on the road, will try to avoid its fifth loss in six games. After wrapping up a 1-4 trip with a 112-87 loss to Golden State, the Hornets fell 107-80 to Dallas on Monday.
They shot 39.0 percent while allowing a 51.5 mark and were outrebounded 101-76 in those two defeats.
“I’m sure not happy,” center Al Jefferson said. “It’s very disappointing.”
Jefferson, averaging a team-high 20.0 points, looks to bounce back after scoring a season-low six on 3-of-12 shooting, a performance that ended a string of 35 straight games in double digits. He’s averaged 24.0 in his last four against Indiana dating to his time with Utah.
Kemba Walker, averaging 14.7 points, has totaled 19 while going 6 of 22 in his last two games. He’s expected to play despite a sore back, though Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gary Neal are out with injuries.