NBA: From frenemies to team-mates - Lance Stephenson pens Los Angeles Lakers deal to join up with LeBron James

LeBron James (left) of the Cleveland Cavaliers tries to get around Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers during the first half in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 29, 201
LeBron James (left) of the Cleveland Cavaliers tries to get around Lance Stephenson of the Indiana Pacers during the first half in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2018 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on April 29, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Lance Stephenson, who once blew in the left ear of LeBron James trying to disrupt the National Basketball Association (NBA) superstar, signed a new contract Tuesday (July 10) to join James on the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 27-year-old guard played for the Indiana Pacers the past two seasons, each campaign ending with a first-round play-off loss to James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Stephenson has a history with James, including a choke sign to the Miami Heat's bench after James missed a late free throw in a lopsided Indiana play-off win in 2012, trash talking, the ear-blowing incident when Miami met Indiana in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals and striking James in the groin when the forward drove to the hoop in a game last November.

"It's actually funny that I'm actually on the same team as him. I'm very excited to see what that brings," Stephenson said. "It's going to be amazing."

The deal, reportedly for one year at US$4.5 million (S$6.1 million), also unites Stephenson with fellow Lakers free-agent signings JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and 2008 NBA champion with the Boston Celtics and four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo.

In eight career NBA seasons, five of them with Indiana, Stephenson has averaged 8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game.

After four seasons with Indiana, he played for the Charlotte Hornets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Pelicans and the Minnesota Timberwolves before rejoining the Pacers just ahead of the 2017 play-offs.

"It's incredibly exciting to have Lance join our team," Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. "Lance is play-off-tested and will bring a certain edge, confidence and toughness to our roster.

"His multi-positional versatility and open-court playmaking abilities are key ingredients for the basketball style we designed for next season."

The Lakers have missed the play-offs for the past five seasons and haven't gone past the second round of the play-offs since winning the 2010 NBA crown.

James has played in all eight NBA Finals since then, going 2-2 with Miami from 2011-2014 and 1-3 with Cleveland from 2015 to last month, when the Golden State Warriors swept the Cavaliers for their third title in four seasons.

James agreed to a three-year deal worth US$154 million on July 1 and signed the contract on Monday. The Lakers have spent much of the money they had available, but have room to make an offer to forward Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to have Oklahoma City buy out his contract next week to make him a free agent.