Lance Stephenson is the newest member of the Charlotte Hornets, after he made the decision to leave the Indiana Pacers' five-year, $44 million offer on the table. 

Pacers president Larry Bird, who drafted and mentored Stephenson, did not see things working out this way. He expected to come to terms and retain the 23-year-old guard, who instead signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Hornets. 

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"I really feel bad about losing him,'' Bird told Bob Kravitz of the Indy Star. "I hope it doesn't interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here. Even if he didn't have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid. 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?''

Stephenson turned himself into one of the NBA most versatile guards over four NBA seasons. Las

t year Stephenson led the NBA in triple-doubles and averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists. 

With that groundwork, it was easy for Bird to see Stephenson maturing into an elite player. In fact, Bird said Stephenson showed flashes of that possibility on a daily basis. 

"It's just disappointing,'' Bird said. "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. And he's growing up. That stuff he pulled in the playoffs, that was out of the blue. But I knew how good Lance was and the value he brought to our team.''