Tag Archives: lance stephenson

One moment captures the spirit and togetherness of the 2017-18 Indiana Pacers: This Picture is Worth a Thousand Words #5

In case this is your first time here, here’s the concept of This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: I take an interesting picture from the history of the Indiana Pacers from ABA glory to the modern era and literally write 1,000 words (or more) about the photo.

While typically these columns take a more historical look at the Pacers (you can read about Reggie Miller, Roger Brown, the GQ Photoshoot curse, and the Day After the Brawl here), this current group just did something that will remain in Pacers fans memories for those at the game and watching from home for a long, long time.

Continue reading One moment captures the spirit and togetherness of the 2017-18 Indiana Pacers: This Picture is Worth a Thousand Words #5


By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

Kevin Pritchard has had a long career working in NBA front offices, but this year’s deadline was different than the rest.

Six players came to the Pacers President of Basketball Operations and told him to keep this team together, which be said had never happened before in his basketball life. One player in particular made a strong plea for the group.

“We deserve to see this thing through,” said the mystery player according to Pritchard. “No one believed in us. No one thought we’d be any good. We deserve this.”

Continue reading By surpassing expectations, the Pacers earn the chance to stick together

The Indiana Pacers can’t stop making comebacks

The Indiana Pacers were down 34-12 at the end of the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

We all should have known at this point what would happen next.

The Pacers came back to defeat LeBron James and the Cavaliers behind a spark from Bankers Life Fieldhouse’s own court jester, Lance Stephenson, and yet another big shot from Victor Oladipo.

Continue reading The Indiana Pacers can’t stop making comebacks

New Year’s Resolutions for the Indiana Pacers: Part One

The Indiana Pacers have lost three straight games as Victor Oladipo has missed the last two and head into the New Year on a bit of a down note on what has otherwise been a terrific start to the season. Everybody has something to improve on, however, so in the spirit of New Year’s, here’s part one of resolutions for each of the Pacers for the remainder of the season.

Part two coming soon. (Now available)

Myles Turner: Use the fadeaway in the post sparingly when faced with a mismatch

Myles is the league-leading shot blocker and perhaps as a victim of high expectations hasn’t had the start to the season than many were hoping for. That being said, he’s averaging 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks with a usage rate that is lower than his rookie season. He’s still just not a featured part of the offense on most nights but he’s putting up solid numbers with efficiency.

One area that he can definitely look to improve on is taking advantage of mismatches in the post. Too often, Turner tends to fade away when matched with a smaller player instead of taking advantage of his height. Here’s an example from the Mavs game with Harrison Barnes guarding him.

Turner has shown improvement in this area and has gone straight up more often of late as was the case with a couple of chances with Gary Harris on him in the post against the Denver Nuggets switching scheme, but he still has a tendency to fade more often than not.

This play is exactly how you want to see Turner take advantage of the mismatch. He doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be in the post all the time (or even most of the time) with that smooth jump shot, but the more he improves with someone smaller on him, the less likely teams will even consider switching on the pick and roll.

Turner’s also gone away from his no-dribble turnaround shot in the post, which has always been very effective since his rookie year. Even just going straight up is preferable to the fade as most of the smaller players won’t have any shot at blocking the high-release attempt and it has a higher chance of getting a foul call as well.

When I asked Turner about a one-leg, Dirk fadeaway that he used in the first game against the Bulls, he said, “I don’t want to always settle for that, but it’s a move that I know is tough to guard.”  So Turner knows that fading shouldn’t be something he does every time. Hopefully it starts to become like junk food at the top of the old food pyramid and is used sparingly.

The Dirk fadeaway in discussion was against Robin Lopez and not a smaller player.

Bojan Bogdanovic: Let yourself be fouled in late-game situations.

Please. Bogdanovic is shooting 84% from the free-throw line this season, but didn’t seem to want to be fouled in the closing seconds against Boston with that inexplicable high pass that was stolen by Terry Rozier. He almost dribbled into a turnover earlier this season in a similar scenario, but was given a foul call. If the Croatian Mercenary is going to play in the game’s final moments, he has to be willing to take those fouls.

Lance Stephenson: Keep the ball moving.

This has always been one of the things that I’ve disliked about Stephenson’s game even during his first tenure with Indiana. When the ball gets swung in his direction, he almost always ball fakes to no effect and gives the defense a chance to reset before making a decision. More often than not, the right play is just an immediate pass to the next man on the perimeter. Here’s an example of Stephenson doing this here, though Oladipo is still able to hit the 3-pointer as the Thunder don’t recover with the extra time Lance allowed them with the unnecessary fake.

Stephenson’s done far more good for the Pacers than bad this year, especially while being a big part of sparking some huge comebacks at home and getting the crowd amped up on a nightly basis, but a few quick swings per game would go a long way for the offense that sometimes doesn’t move the ball as much as it should.

Bonus resolution for Born Ready: Find his shooting stroke on the road. Before the game against the Chicago Bulls where Stephenson made two of his five 3-point attempts, he was shooting only 17% from deep. At Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, he’s shooting 38%.

Darren Collison: Don’t settle for mid-range attempts when the opponent switches on the pick and roll

Collison had a terrific offensive game against the Bulls, scoring 30 points on just 16 shot attempts. One area where the point guard could get more movement into the offense is any time the opposing team is switching in the pick and roll. Collison with a big man on him is reluctant to try a pass into the post over the taller player and instead most of the time ends up taking a contested mid-range attempt.

This happens so often that many times Turner doesn’t even look to post up when Collison is the ball handler in a switched pick and roll, because he knows what he’s likely to do more times than not.

The Pacers have also started having Turner post on the opposite side so Collison can swing it to the next guy on the perimeter and allow that man to make the post-entry pass that DC doesn’t make very often with the taller man defending him. You can see Turner going to post up on the opposite end on the previous video. The problem is that this allows the opposing team to switch the point guard off of Turner and get at least a slightly bigger player on him, which you can also see happen on the play above as well, and it takes more time to accomplish.

Collison is shooting well from the mid-range in certain areas, but oddly the area that he takes the most attempts in the mid-range is where he shoots by far the worst percentage. From the right elbow to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a dismal 25.7% on 35 attempts.  In all other spots from 15-feet to the 3-point line, Collison is shooting a very good 53.6% on 56 attempts. If DC is going to take those type of shots, he has to start shooting more often in the areas that he’s been far more successful in. It’s very rare to see him take the opposing big to the rim as well, which could open up shots for others if he forces the defense to help as well.

TJ Leaf: Stay confident, grow in team defensive concepts.

Nate McMillan recently said that there aren’t really any expectations for TJ Leaf in his first season they just want him to get some experience on the court.

“We know that he can score the ball,” McMillan said about Leaf after practice. “We want to see him defend and continue to work on, certainly scoring, but really his first year is about just playing. There’s no pressure, no expectations, other than getting out there to play.”

The problem lately has been that Leaf hasn’t seen much or any playing time. Alex Poythress has gotten the most recent chance at the backup four minutes and when Glenn Robinson III comes back, it may likely be Bojan Bogdanovic playing some extra minutes as the backup power forward.

Leaf was a very confident rookie to start the season and will need to remain so even while he’s likely to sit the bench. Learning more about how to be a better defender will be the biggest thing he can do to help himself earn more minutes when his opportunities do come. Maybe sit next to Pacers defensive assistant coach Dan Burke on the bench every night.

McMillan praised his attitude recently when he went down to the G-League and played well.

“We do respect that,” McMillan said of Leaf’s mindset of wanting to do whatever is best for him. “Some guys feel they’re above (the G-League). His thing was, ‘It was good to play and get some minutes.’ … That’s what these guys love to do, is play basketball. That’s the purpose of sending him down there.”

Al Jefferson: Get a makeover.

Fortunately for the Pacers this season, Al Jefferson hasn’t been needed to play a whole lot. Hopefully that stays true in 2018. Turner and Oladipo both said that he was the one player on the team that most needed a makeover on the team. Big Al needs some new style.

Joe Young: Stay committed to the role of pesky, full-court defender

Young has embraced being the annoying, pesky defender that guards the opposing point guard the entire length of the court and it’s resulted in the occasional forced turnover. His minutes are likely to remain sporadic barring any injury and this is the easiest way for him to make an impact as he’s not going to be looked at as a primary scoring option when he plays.

Young has added a few points in the last two games (6 and 7 points respectively), but for him to continue playing in the league, he’ll have to up his defensive game. He’s got the right attitude and you know a guy that sleeps on the practice court is going to work hard.

Damien Wilkins: Don’t get your LaVar Ball on.

Old Man Wilkins just found out that he was having his third son as he was surprised by a gender reveal during the Pacers/Mavericks game.

Please, no. We don’t want or need another LaVar Ball. We didn’t need the first one.

These Indiana Pacers never quit

You’ve heard this story before.

The Indiana Pacers start off the game slow, let the opposing team get a lead around 20 points. Then, suddenly, usually sparked by something mildly insane that Lance Stephenson did or a pull-up 3-pointer by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers look like a different team and go on a huge run. The atmosphere is intense. The Banker’s Life Fieldhouse crowd is going crazy. They end up winning by late heroics from Oladipo as he points down to the court, letting everyone know, “This is My City. This is Our House.”

Tonight, the comeback came against the Brooklyn Nets as the Pacers improved to 19-14 on the season and 3-0 against the Nets as they sit in 4th in the Eastern Conference.

Per Pat Boylan, the Pacers have been down by double digits in six of their last seven home games and by at least 16 points in five of those seven home games. Despite this, the Pacers won four of the seven and had a chance in the fourth quarter at winning every one of them.

Continue reading These Indiana Pacers never quit

The Indiana Pacers chemistry is natural, but not accidental

Kevin Pritchard seems to have created something special in Indiana.

Perhaps not in terms of an abundance of talent on this Pacers team, but in a creation of chemistry that most teams can only dream about having after a few years growing together with little roster turnover. But this team brought in nine new players in a single off-season.

“This is the best locker room that I’ve ever been in,” said Myles Turner.  Continue reading The Indiana Pacers chemistry is natural, but not accidental

The Indiana Pacers have never been more fun

The Indiana Pacers (12-9) have had better teams in the past but they’ve never been more fun than this.

Just watch this video. Feel the joy. Buy a home or rent an Airbnb in this lovely neighborhood.

Indiana’s never had more enjoyment from watching the Pacers than with this underdog group of running, gunning, have fun-ing bunch. Almost every game at the Fieldhouse turns into a house party.

The fun all starts with Lance Stephenson, who has averaged over 17 points per game in his last three and has added five assists and eight rebounds in consecutive games.

Stephenson is the Pacers prodigal son, who languishes outside of Indiana when he’s not wearing the blue and gold and thrives in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. He dances and inspires dances. He prances. He plays air guitar. He high-fives the crowd. He head-butts stanchions.

“Coach is doing a good job of letting me play through mistakes,” Stephenson said after tonight’s party of a win against the Orlando Magic. “He lets me be me.”

The Pacers fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Everything that Lance does elicits a louder reaction than if someone else would have done the same. So when he does something special as has been the case often lately, it feels like the roof may collapse.

But the Pacers are this fun for more than just Lance reasons.

Victor Oladipo made his first 11 shots tonight, which included maybe five heat checks that all went in. It got to the point where even he didn’t know what was happening after banking in a 3-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis continues to be gift from the basketball gods, (mostly the god of European big men Arydvas Sabonis). He scored 19 points while taking just seven shots, added eight rebounds and five assists. That crazy play by Lance wouldn’t have been possible without his expert cut at just the right time.

“I don’t know. It just happens,” Domas said of his on-court play with Lance, “… He understands me. It’s just chemistry.”

The Pacers other stud young big man, Myles Turner, was no slouch tonight either as he scored 18 points in the first three quarters, being unleashed from long range with five attempts and three makes. He nearly had four made 3-pointers but his toes were on the line on one attempt.

“The thing I love about this team is that we never stop competing,” Turner said.

Every game is non-stop effort from the Pacers. They may lose some games, but as Turner said, they’re always competing. Whether they’re down 22 in the third quarter or having just lost a lead at the start of the fourth quarter like tonight.

The Magic were up one briefly in the fourth quarter. Then the Pacers went on a 23-5 run.

The Pacers aren’t just a one-man show these days. Anybody is capable of a huge night to lift the team, Bojan Bogdanovic continues to show a more all-around offensive game than many expected, Thad Young is the glue guy, Darren Collison is capable of occasional 30-point nights. They play together and as a unit. They care about each other off the court.

These Pacers are modern. These Pacers are always looking to run. These Pacers love to play together. The Pacers have never been more fun.

A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

For A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity, I will bring a short column that highlights something about this team that gives me hope. The season is long. We need to focus on the positives whether in the midst of a winning streak or the depths of a rough patch. And in this stretch of big (like, HUGE) wins, I thought it best to focus on something that is all too rare in the NBA: noticeable chemistry.

Continue reading A Weekly Dose of Pacers Positivity #5: Chemistry is Cooking

Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on the odds and ends, the small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some neither.

The Pacers have won four games in a row, four road games in a row, five out of six overall, and just won all three games in a 4-night stretch. It’s been fun. Let’s dive right in.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: Odds and Ends of the Indiana Pacers winning streak

Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Game after game, it seems like there are more and more reasons to gush over the performance of Domantas Sabonis.

He’s been called the quarterback of the offense by Thaddeus Young. Nate McMillan said early in the year that they like to run the offense through him while he’s out there. He’s played two games while battling an illness only to produce a couple of his best performances of the season in those contests.  Continue reading Why everybody loves playing with Domantas Sabonis

Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

INDIANAPOLIS — After being down by 22 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers outscored the Detroit Pistons 51-22 the remainder of the game to win in impressive fashion by a final of 107-100 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers were kick-started by none other than the infectious energy of Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points and grabbed six rebounds in the final 12 minutes.  Continue reading Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

Two-Ahh: Pacers lose third straight game after blowing lead in second half

For the third consecutive game, the Indiana Pacers played terrific basketball in the first half, scoring a ridiculous 75 points tonight.

In the last three games, the Pacers have outscored opponents in the first half 200-166.  Continue reading Two-Ahh: Pacers lose third straight game after blowing lead in second half

Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Stray Pacervations is intended to shed light on small things and possible trends that happen during Indiana Pacers games. Some good. Some bad. Some in between.

1. Domas Sabonis rebounding and pushing the pace. There are so many things to love about Sabonis’s game already, but this might be my current favorite. When Sabonis grabs a defensive rebound and no defender is near, instead of pausing and finding the outlet pass, Sabonis will immediately turn into a dribble while looking for an open man. It’s a small thing but it helps the Pacers gain a little bit of extra time for their budding transition offense.  Continue reading Stray Pacervations: The Good, The Bad and the In-Between

Pacers show encouraging signs in preseason win to start new era

The Indiana Pacers won their preseason opener in Milwaukee by a final score of 104-86. The Pacers ran away with the game in the third quarter where they outscored the Bucks 30-15. Myles Turner and Lance Stephenson led the team in scoring with 17 points each.

While the preseason results don’t matter, this was the new-look Pacers first opportunity to play together outside of practice, and it was an interesting dive into what the Pacers will strive to be in the regular season. Here’s some takeaways from game one:

Myles Turner is going to shoot more threes. A third of Turner’s 12 shot attempts were from beyond the 3-point line. While Turner managed to make only one attempt of his four tonight, it was encouraging to see him look to shoot from distance with confidence. Turner’s defense was also impressive. Turner was active at the rim, looked to consistently be in the correct position, and grabbed nine rebounds. Turner showed some improvement in post defense, forcing multiple misses in the first half, while also showing his great rim protection on multiple occasions with three blocks. Turner’s development is the key for the Pacers to accelerate this rebuilding era, and it’s quite possible he’ll have an All-Star selection coming his way this season.

Victor Oladipo has the greenest of green lights. Oladipo shot it early and often, shooting 8 times in the first quarter. He finished with 15 points on 15 shot attempts (making six). It’s clear that Oladipo will be one of the Pacers first scoring options and may lead the team in scoring, efficiency probably won’t be great.

Lance will make us dance. Stephenson will serve as the sixth man this year and he looked much like the player that he only seems to be in a Pacers uniform. Stephenson was the main ball handler for the second unit and set up Domantas Sabonis numerous times with nifty passes as they’ve seemed to gain some chemistry over the summer as both have spent the offseason in Indianapolis. Stephenson is going to flirt with triple doubles, get hyped, take maddening mid-range jump shots, bully his way to the rim, make some occasional threes. Stephenson finished with 17 points, six assists and six rebounds.

Damien Wilkins looks alright. Old Man Wilkins, complete with gray facial hair, was a questionable free agent signee at 37 years old and being out of the NBA for the past four seasons. Tonight, Wilkins led the Pacers in scoring in the first half with 10 points and finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting. He looks like he’ll adequately serve as the backup small forward while Glenn Robinson III is out with his severe ankle injury. While you could still argue that the Pacers would be better served giving those minutes to a young player like Alex Poythress or Ben Moore that need the development time, Wilkins won’t be a liability on the court and should be a good veteran presence while with the second unit. His situation seems reminiscent of Rasual Butler from 2013-14.

He currently looks like a lock to make the roster. Alex Poythress may be a candidate for the final spot as he was the 12th player to enter the game tonight, which would open up one of the Pacers 2-way contract spots for either Jarrod Uthoff or Ben Moore, neither of whom played tonight.

Al Jefferson is going to have to earn his way back on the court. At least for tonight’s game, the Pacers played Sabonis at the backup five and rookie TJ Leaf as the backup power forward. While Less Big Al lost 40 pounds over the offseason and seems more intent on a better season this year, he’s currently the third-string center. It’s possible the Pacers end up deciding that Leaf isn’t quite ready for minutes yet, but at least to start the season (and in training camp practices), Jefferson will be mainly on the bench.

It’s perilous to make many judgments based on the first preseason game (the Pacers showed encouraging signs last year in the first preseason game too), but the Pacers seemed committed to the running style that they’ve been talking about pursuing for years, and Wilkins praised the team chemistry after the game, which has been a struggle for the Pacers for the past couple of seasons as well.


Indiana Pacers waive Kevin Seraphin

Shams Charania of The Vertical reports that the Indiana Pacers have waived center Kevin Seraphin.

Seraphin’s contract would have become fully guaranteed on August 1st.

Seraphin, who averaged 4.7 points and 2.9 rebounds in his only season with the team, becomes the second center waived this off-season after Rakeem Christmas was also waived earlier this month.

The Pacers now have three centers remaining on the roster: Myles Turner, Al Jefferson and rookie Ike Anigbogu.

The Pacers roster is now at 14 players including Damien Wilkins, who seems unlikely to make the final roster since he’s 37 and hasn’t played in the NBA for four seasons.

This also ends the bromance of Lance Stephenson and Seraphin, who found an instant connection on and off the court when Stephenson joined the team late last year.

The Curse of the Photoshoot: This Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words #4

In case this is your first time here, here’s the concept of This Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: I take an interesting picture from the history of the Indiana Pacers from ABA glory to the modern era and literally write 1,000 words (or more) about the photo.

Previously in this series, we’ve looked at Reggie Miller’s torture of the Knicks faithful, Roger Brown and the ABA days, and the time the Pacers played with only six available players the day after the Malice at the Palace.

The Curse of the Photoshoot:

In the 2013-14 season, the Indiana Pacers looked like real challengers to the Miami Heat’s superteam at least for the first two-thirds of the season.

After taking the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012-13, the Pacers were on a mission the following season, starting off the year with a ludicrous 33-7 record. Paul George and Roy Hibbert were each All-Stars for the second time in their young careers. Hibbert was considered the best rim protector in the league with his mastery of verticality that made LeBron James bust out floaters that he used against nobody else, while George was one of the best 2-way wings in the league and still playing out the final season of his rookie contract before his extension would kick in.

Lance Stephenson, George Hill and David West completed the starting unit that made up the best 5-man lineup in the league that was light years ahead of anyone else defensively for much of the season under Head Coach Frank Vogel. This core was relatively young with great chemistry and the Pacers thought they had a team that would compete for years to come.


“I thought we would be together five, six, seven years, making conference finals,” said Vogel, now with the Magic, recently to ESPN.com.

On February 25, 2014, the Indiana Pacers had a record of 42-13 when the infamous photo that would appear in the March issue of GQ Magazine with the Pacers starting five unintentionally portraying a 90s R&B group and perfectly embodying the team’s (awful) slogan of Blue Collar Gold Swagger hit the Internet. While it was unknown at the time, a curse had been born.

After that Pacers GQ photo appeared, the Pacers finished the regular season just 14-13 in their remaining games, losing as many games and losing twice as often in its final 27 games compared to the team’s first 55, and the Pacers chemistry started to unravel as well.

While they still finished first in the conference and made it back to the conference finals, they nearly lost to the 8-seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round and the upstart Washington Wizards gave the Pacers all they could handle in the second.

The Pacers lost to the Heat in a respectable six games, but many of the players from the photo and the team itself are still suffering from The Curse of the Photoshoot and have never fully recovered from the end of that 2013-14 season that started off so promising.

“Our window closed fast,” Larry Bird told ESPN.com.

Now only one player remains (Stephenson who returned from his exodus in the NBA desert) from the 2013-14 roster only three seasons later after George was traded to Oklahoma City and Lavoy Allen’s team option was declined, taking away the last remnants from the roster besides Stephenson. Even Bird has a smaller role with the team after resigning from his President of Basketball Operations position.

The Pacers missed the playoffs the following season and have finished 7th in the East the past two years. They now look prepared to start a rebuild around Myles Turner after trading away George.

Let’s look at what’s happened to each player from the infamous photo since the 2013-14 season from least affected to most affected by the curse:

David West:

West and his tight pants from the Pacers GQ photo seem to be the least affected by the curse, losing money, but gaining an NBA Championship. West decided to leave the Pacers by declining his $12 million player option after George’s lost broken leg season to get back to competing for titles and became a ring chaser that no longer had to be the only grown man and veteran voice in the locker room. After one season with the San Antonio Spurs, West joined the Warriors and got his ring this past season.

The Pacers have missed his veteran leadership since he left and his departure may have led to the Pacers plan to put George at the power forward spot the following season.

George Hill:

Hill had a career-best season in 2014-15 with an increased offensive responsibility with no George or Stephenson to share the ball with, but he also missed nearly half that season with various injuries. The following season Hill went blond and the Pacers rewarded him for his outstanding year by signing Monta Ellis and taking the ball away from Hill while he stood in the corner on most possessions. Aggressive George Hill became a rare sight.

Hill’s time as a blond should be no surprise when Hill enjoyed the Pacers GQ photoshoot the most among the starting five.

“GHill was probably the one that was really loving the whole photo shoot and loving his look,” George said when the photo came out. “They gave him that outfit and he ran with it.”

Hill was traded the following offseason in a 3-team deal that sent Jeff Teague to Indiana and Hill to the Utah Jazz. Hill had a great season for the Jazz but found his free agent market surprisingly thin as he again struggled with various injuries during the season that caused him to miss 33 games.

Hill ended up signing as a veteran mentor in basketball purgatory Sacramento on a 3-year, $57 million deal (fortunately for Hill, the Kings seem to be much less Kangz-like with their recent moves and draft picks) after he had declined an extension with the Jazz during the season for worth $80 million over four years. Teague meanwhile left the Pacers after just one season for the Timberwolves on a nearly identical 3-year, $57 million contract as the Pacers preferred to look elsewhere as they begin to rebuild.

Lance Stephenson:

Stephenson was nearly an All-Star in 2014 and led the league in triple doubles with five (which seems so small after last season’s MVP race) but also got into a fight with teammate Evan Turner, who was acquired for Danny Granger at the deadline, during a practice and became most well known for blowing into LeBron’s ear during the conference finals. He was also seen as one of the problems for the Pacers fraying chemistry down the stretch.

“There were issues with Lance not making the All-Star team,” Vogel told ESPN.com. “The addition of Evan kind of screwed him up. Evan’s a great guy. The moves totally made sense. They just messed us up a little.”

Stephenson was an unrestricted free agent the summer after the 2013-14 season and the Pacers tried to woo him with a personal movie and offered him a 5-year, $44 million contract when free agency opened. Stephenson and his (now former) agent declined the deal, thinking that the Pacers were low-balling and he would be able to find a better contract elsewhere.

“I wanted to stay there but they gave me a deadline where I had to choose,” Stephenson told the IndyStar when he returned as a Hornet. “So there wasn’t no time for me to make a decision. They gave me a deadline (before) how long it (was) going to take for them to go somewhere else. I had to make a quick decision and me and my agent decided we would see what other teams (were) talking about.”

Stephenson never found a better offer as he ended up settling for a short-term 3-year contract for $27 million with the Charlotte Hornets that had a team option on the final season as the Pacers quickly moved on to other free agents, signing C.J Miles and Rodney Stuckey.

After Stephenson had the worst 3-point shooting season in history in his first and only season with the Hornets, he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies halfway through the 2015-16 season and though Stephenson had some success, the Grizzlies declined his team option and didn’t bring him back.

Stephenson found little interest on the open market as he hit free agency again this past summer and ended up making the New Orleans Pelicans on an unguaranteed contract to start the 2016-17 season, but he was let go after just six games after injuring his groin. Once recovered, Stephenson signed a 10-day contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but after six games he an injured ankle and was not retained by the Wolves.

After playing for five teams in three seasons and his career prospects looking grim, Stephenson was given a lifeline by Bird and the team he now knows he never should have left in the first place. Stephenson signed a 3-year, $12 million deal and immediately looked like his old self once he was back in a Pacers uniform, providing a spark to an inconsistent Pacers team that went 5-1 to end the season to make the playoffs.

“I’ve been on so many teams,” Stephenson told reporters after he returned, “it felt like seven years ago. I’ve been in five different places since I left here. … It makes you stronger, it makes you smarter, and it humbles you also.”

Stephenson will in all likelihood come off the bench for the Pacers this season, but the real test for whether the curse is done with him will be if his humility from his struggles for three years outside of the organization remains with Lance as the team rebuilds.

Roy Hibbert:

None of these players have had a steeper decline in their career post-GQ-photo than Hibbert. Hibbert was an All-Star and the best rim protector in the league in 2014, but in the playoffs he became a laughingstock on the Internet as he had multiple scoreless games, even matching his zero points with zero rebounds on one occasion.

Hibbert, always prone to inconsistency, seemed to lose all confidence when the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and fed him the ball in the post more in two games off the bench than the Pacers ever looked for Hibbert inside. Bynum’s time with the team was short, lasting only those two games before succumbing to injury, but Hibbert’s game never fully recovered. Rumors also swirled that George slept with Hibbert’s fiancé and that was causing his poor play (George denied these rumors in an Instagram post of him, Hibbert and Hill fishing together).

Hibbert’s fall was quickened by a rapidly changing league that was going smaller and faster and spread the court with all five positions. Pero Antic forced Hibbert outside his comfort zone in the first-round against the Hawks by forcing Hibbert to defend him at the 3-point line and Hibbert became a liability instead of the lynchpin to the league’s best defense.

After one more so-so season with the Pacers, Bird lost his patience with Hibbert and after failing to get Hibbert to decline his player option by letting him and the world know his role would be limited next season, Bird traded him away for a 2019 second-round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Hibbert played one season with the Lakers and started 81 games but scored just 5.9 points per game and was no longer able to make nearly as much of a difference on the defensive end. Hibbert played the first few months of last season as the backup center for the Hornets before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Hibbert never played a game for the Bucks before being traded to the Denver Nuggets a few weeks later where he played garbage minutes in only six games.

The 2-time All-Star, 9-year NBA veteran is now still a free agent and if he finds a team, it may just be on a minimum contract as centers like Hibbert are becoming more and more obsolete as the NBA continues to evolve. The argument could be made that Hibbert deserves the “most-cursed” title on this list.

Paul George:

In the summer following the photo, George broke his leg while playing in an exhibition for Team USA. While George would eventually come back better than ever, the lost season in George’s prime would end up making George ineligible for the Designated Player Extension (George needed two of the past three seasons on one of the All-NBA teams, but in the first of those three seasons George played in only a handful of games due to his leg) that would have allowed the Pacers to offer George a massive $200 million plus extension this summer that may have made George more likely to stay.

Instead the Indiana Pacers likely started to lose George as soon as Bird decided to move him to power forward the year after his injury despite him seemingly having no interest in playing the position. Bird’s other failed additions like Monta Ellis, Rodney Stuckey and Al Jefferson combined with disappointing overall team performances also likely added to George’s discontent, but it all started with the photo and then the injury. George went from saying that one day he wanted to pass Reggie Miller to being destined for the Lakers in a span of just two years.

George seemed to lament being the last guy left from those teams before Stephenson returned as player after player was either traded away or left of their own accord in free agency.

“That team is gone,” George told ESPN.com of that group. “It happens. Players move on, organizations move on. You deal with it. You keep playing.”

George is actually the only reason the GQ photo exists in the first place. Originally GQ approached just George, but George asked if the entire starting unit could join him for the shoot. GQ obliged.

“They reached out to me to do some GQ, and I thought it’d be cool to get the whole starting five in it,” said George the day the picture was released.

With the way George handled his exit and his role in the creation of the curse (only half-joking on the latter), it may be a long time before most Pacers fans can look back at these teams and remember the good times fondly.

While you can claim that other factors actually led to the Pacers demise that season and beyond like the trading of Granger, the failed addition of Bynum, the league evolving overnight or the team’s crumbling chemistry, the Curse of the Photoshoot has struck a few more teams in the years since the Pacers GQ photo.

The Seattle Seahawks made the same R&B cover photo mistake that the Pacers made and lost Super Bowl XLIX to the New England Patriots after quarterback Russell Wilson threw at interception at the goal-line in the closing moments.

The Golden State Warriors had what appeared to be a JC Penney’s catalog shoot during their historic 73-win season, but lost a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers that season.

The New York Giants added to the curse and its rapidly growing list of victims last year with their boat trip picture before quickly losing to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.