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Lance Stephenson says he will join Hornets

LOS ANGELES/SAN ANTONIO -- Free agent guard Lance Stephenson, who helped Indiana reach back-to-back Eastern Conference finals, says he is leaving the Pacers to join the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.

Stephenson tweeted Wednesday that he was looking forward “to the next phase of my career and the wonderful opportunity to continue to grow as a player and as a person in Charlotte!”

U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN reported that Stephenson has signed a three-year, US$27 million contract with the Hornets that includes a team option for the final season.

The 23-year-old Stephenson reportedly turned down a five-year, US$44 million deal from the Pacers.

Stephenson was slapped with 14 technical fouls during the regular season. He was fined twice for flopping during the Eastern Conference finals where he also got into a tussle with teammate Evan Turner during a practice.

Stephenson averaged career highs in points (13.8), rebounds (7.2), assists (4.6) and minutes (35.3) in 78 games this past season.

“Indy, I had a great 4 years,” Stephenson wrote on Twitter. “Thank you Larry Bird, the fans, my coaches and teammates for the incredible experience.

“I will never forget any of you!”

He has career averages of 9.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists across four seasons with Indiana.

USA's Leonard Withdraws from FIBA World Cup

NBA finals MVP Kawhi Leonard says he is withdrawing his name from the pool of players being considered for Team USA at the FIBA World Cup.

Leonard, who led the San Antonio Spurs to the championship last month, told the San Antonio Express-News that he needs a break after the long regular season and playoff grind.

“This was a very difficult decision,” said Leonard, who advanced to back-to-back finals with the Spurs.

“I want to go out and compete against the guys from these other countries but I need the time to heal and just rest my body from the long season.”

Leonard said he watched teammates Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili struggle the next season after competing in off-season tournaments. Parker played for the French national team at last summer's Eurobasket tournament.

“I went through those two seasons going down to June 20,” the 23-year-old Leonard said. “That's tough on your body to keep going.

“I'm just learning from Tony and Manu (Ginobili), just going into that off-season and playing so hard and then coming back and their bodies not feeling the same and then being tired for the regular season. So I'm just learning from them.”

Leonard was considered a safe bet to make the USA men's basketball team. He will remain in the national player pool for the 2016 Olympic tournament.

The FIBA World Cup will be take place Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 in Spain.

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