The Pacers are in a tailspin as they are in danger of missing the playoffs with the Bulls now only a half game back with a chance to tie the Pacers for the 8th-seed if they defeat the Hawks tonight.
With all this doom and gloom in the air, Larry Bird gave us something else to talk about: LANCE STEPHENSON IS BACK. So the iPacers team will discuss the return of Born Ready. Be sure to follow our team on twitter: Editor-in-Chief Derek Kramer, @iPacersblog, and our three Contributors: Ross Blauvelt (@TheCorner3Ross), Alexander Grant (@Vegas_SportsGuy) and Joe Betz (@Joe_Betz_).
What was your initial reaction to finding out the Pacers were signing Lance Stephenson?
Joe Betz: I first learned via a friend’s text that just read “BOOORRRNNN READDDYYY! Bring on Lebron!” I honestly thought it was a delayed text from years ago, simply reappearing in the future to haunt me. After opening Twitter, though, I found the context. I was excited, nostalgic, worried, and hopeful—-all in about 20 seconds.
Ross Blauvelt: Seriously? Let’s get the whole band back together. Big Roy is out there somewhere. I was torn. Thought the Pacers needed a defensive stopper and a 3-point shooter and Lance can’t stay healthy. Love to see him again but… then again. He is a cheaper option that Stuckey, improvement in skill for sure, and already been here. Hmmm.
Alexander Grant: My initial reaction was wondering how Lance felt about passing up that original contract offer a couple years ago. Rumors say his former agent was very eager to get Lance out of Indy. Now he’s back home. He loves the fans in Indy, and I’m certain shortly after he left he knew he made a mistake.
Derek Kramer: I got a text alert on my phone when Shams Charania broke the news that a deal was in the works. Immediate reaction was “Holy crap. This season is weird.” And while completely aware that the Pacers likely just replaced one ball dominant guard that can’t shoot in Stuckey with another in Lance, my excitement was boiling at the prospect of seeing Born Ready and all that comes with Lance play in Indiana again.
Will the Pacers get more good Lance or bad Lance in his return to Indiana?
Joe Betz: It will be both. We will get Good Lance at the end of this season/ through the playoffs, and maybe most of next season, but there will be plenty of Bad Lance “hot doggin'” in our future. I’m honestly okay when he gets a little sticky with the ball, so long as it’s happening with the second unit. If/when he becomes a starter, if he doesn’t defer to PG more often than not in games, that will be Bad, Bad Lance.
Ross Blauvelt: It remains to be see, but he’ll definitely be a humbler Lance. Leaning towards good Lance. The way the end of this season has gone, he really can’t hurt.
Alexander Grant: Lance is a wildcard. Game to game, his output can change drastically. This late in the season, with all the inconsistency, the best thing Lance brings is his attitude. How much worse could the current season be? He’s a guy you’d want to pick first in a pickup game in the park. His career since he left the Pacers has plummeted. The new deal is low risk, high reward for both Lance and the Pacers.
Derek Kramer: He sounds like a humbled guy after bouncing around the league with five different teams in just three seasons, but also one that said his return would be like “Michael Jordan coming back.” To be fair, Stephenson was talking about the crowd atmosphere and not comparing himself to MJ, but the media still ran with it anyway. On the court, I think we may not get the entire Good Lance experience until next season, but I doubt we’ll see the Bad Lance in these last six games either as he tries to find his place on this team.
Does the Lance signing help the Pacers get into the playoffs this season?
Derek Kramer: It’s looking like it’s going to take a miracle for the Pacers to turn it around and get in at this point. The Bulls have a cakewalk of a schedule the rest of the way playing the Nets (twice), 76ers, Magic, Pelicans, Knicks and Hawks. The Pacers, on the other hand, have to play the Cavs, Raptors, Bucks, Magic, Sixers and Hawks. Is Lance that miracle? God, I would love that to be the case, but it’s difficult to see it right now.
Ross Blauvelt: Depends on whether the Pacers get Good/Bad Lance. He’s definitely an upgrade at the wing spot if he can stay healthy. Can you imagine a first round series vs. the Cavs with Lance? How many times will we see that ear blow replay?
Alexander Grant: Call me a pessimist, but Lance does not help the Pacers get into the postseason. Even if they did make the playoffs, it would be a quick exit. This move is trying to build for the short future, and it shows Larry Legend can’t get enough of Born Ready!
Joe Betz: It does help them, but mainly because of injuries. I don’t think Lance moves the needle at the end of this season any more than a healthy Stuckey would have. Stuckey was in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career before he hurt his knee. There was every reason to believe his shot would come back some place closer to his average in the final games of the season. However, Lance in game shape in the playoffs, assuming the Pacers make them, could be more impactful than Stuckey. Come on, Good Lance!
Does the Pacers bet on Stephenson for more than just this season pay off?
Ross Blauvelt: Next year with a full training camp under his belt, it’ll definitely pay off. It all depends on his health. I think it’ll pay off. It’s already gotten fans more excited for a lackluster team.
Joe Betz: Yes, and for a few reasons. If I understand the contract correctly, next year is guaranteed and the following year is a team option. That would mean next season is a semi-contract year for Lance, and the year after is a for-sure contract year, assuming his option is picked up. Giving a player who Bird has said has the most talent on the (old Miami challenging) team that kind of motivation, coupled with physical and emotional maturity, gives me a lot of hope. Plus, at four million a year, he is less expensive than Stuckey, freeing up three million to help re-sign CJ Miles and Jeff Teague.
Derek Kramer: At just $4 million for next season, this is essentially no risk in adding Stephenson for more than the end of this season. If it doesn’t work out, the Pacers can cut Lance loose after next season, no harm, no foul. It’s not like he’s going to ruin the non-exsistent chemistry on the team. If he shows he can still play, the Pacers got a young player at an extreme bargain for two full seasons.
Alexander Grant: There are a couple factors to consider, but bringing Lance on board will bring his tenacity. That is something that the current Pacers lack. He will try hard every night, and probably feels he is almost the best player on the court at any given time. Pacers fans will say yes it will pay off. NBA fans and sports media will not care, or understand Larry’s infatuation with Lance-a-lot.
How does this effect Paul George’s future with the Pacers? More likely or less likely to eventually sign his extension with Indiana?
Derek Kramer: George has been on the record saying that the Pacers are missing grit and a winning pride. Stephenson was always a guy who played every game with heart and energy. You always knew Lance cared. George is clearly glad that he has his “brother” back on the team. But in the end, it probably won’t effect George’s decision much, but it won’t hurt. It’s likely all about that All-NBA team vote and qualifying for that DPE for whether or not PG remains an Indiana Pacer.
Alexander Grant: Paul has said numerous times he’d like to play on a contending team. Does Lance bring the roster closer to contention status? Probably not. However, Paul is reportedly happy Lance is back. That New York swag Lance brings is hard to replace. I think Paul has already made up his mind on whether to stay or go, and most Pacers fans would hate my answer.
Ross Blauvelt: Slightly more likely. They were buds, and this shows PG the Pacers care what he thinks. This offseason will really determine that more than this move though.
Joe Betz: Lance signing with the team tells me PG was consulted. You do not bring back someone who became one of Twitter’s most notorious memes without asking your star player if they are okay with it. Some might roll their eyes at that idea, but let’s be honest: Paul George is the most important Pacers player this decade and could be the most important player through most of the next decade. He should be consulted. Chemistry matters, and Lance back gives me hope that this tilts PG toward re-signing. Lance has openly said leaving was a mistake. PG should listen.
Last one for fun: What’s your favorite Lance Stephenson memory?
Alexander Grant: Well, the blowing in the ear of LeBron is an obvious answer, but I’m going to pick his Game 6 performance in the 2012-13 Eastern Conference semifinals vs. the New York Knicks.
Ross Blauvelt: Playoff series vs the Heat. Not the ear blowing but getting into Wade’s head. I loved seeing a young player become an annoying pest to such a star. That or the crazy crossover vs Tony Parker that left him on the ground. A little NY ball coming out.
Joe Betz: Every time he went from rebound to full court break layup was my favorite memory, renewed each time. I can’t wait for the next one. I think Myles will be more okay with those run-outs than a certain center.
Derek Kramer: So many options to choose from playoff memories including the 3-point at the buzzer against the Heat that ended the third quarter and how loud BLF was, the 25 points against the Knicks that helped push the Pacers to the ECF, but my favorite thing that Lance ever did though was his in-the-air, behind-the-back pass to CJ Watson for a corner three. I’ve never seen a better pass that one, and I’m not sure I ever will.