Tag Archives: lance stephenson

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

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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.

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“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.

Lance Stephenson made us all dance, perhaps none more than Kevin Seraphin

We continue our 2016-2017 player reviews with Lance Stephenson and Kevin Seraphin. If you’ve missed any of the previous reviews, you can find them here.

 Lance Stephenson

Season per-game statistics: 6.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 14 inspired teammates

Contract: Signed late in the 2016-2017 season to a 3-year, $12 million deal with a team option in 2018-2019. Lance played on three teams for six games each this past season (New Orleans, Minnesota, and Indiana). With injuries keeping him from sticking with the first two.

The Good: Lance being Lance and McMillan and the Pacers putting Lance in a position let Lance be Lance. A surprise signing right after Rodney Stuckey was waived due to injury. We even speculated who the Pacers could sign and take advantage of the opportunity to rid themselves of the final year of Stuckey’s contract. 

But Lance brought to the team something that was lacking. A fire on the court and just a love of basketball.  You could tell he’s having a good time and extremely grateful to be back playing for the team that he knows he never should have left. His first game back in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse against the Toronto Raptors will be one many Pacers fans never forget. The Pacers were down large to start but Lance injected his energy with his flashy play and playmaking ability, even found his jump shot that rarely was around for outside of his Pacers playing days. Even typically reserved Jeff Teague got fired up that game! That’s why they call it the Lance Effect.

His signing to the team came at a point when most fans had written off the season as a lost cause. Win one lose one. Why go see a game in person bleh.. but then it changed to, I can’t wait to see what Lance will do next! Bonus: The Pacers never lost a game that wasn’t against LeBron James with Lance on the team, going 5-0 down the stretch. It seems his time bouncing around the league had humbled him and taught him he had a good thing going in Indiana. Who wants to buy a Lance T-shirt for next season?

A little side bonus. Paul George and Lance are close. Perhaps the Lance signing can help convince Paul to stay in Indiana? If nothing else, it can’t hurt the Pacers chances.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2702273

The Bad: Lance being Lance. Most fans were wondering when/if the love fest would wear off. But to close the season it hadn’t. How will he play, though, when there are hard times? When the pressure is on?

For one, he’s got to improve his 3-point shooting. Teams were daring him to take the open three and to his credit he did a decent job of hitting those shots enough. He did seem to bring one of his legs oddly forward when going up for a jump shot, which made it look awkward but it was often successful in those limited chances. He still has a tendency to settle for far too many midrange shots and everyone knows Lance is at times going to dribble too much rather than just keep moving the ball on offense, but there was far more good than bad this year. 

Next season, the Pacers will need him to get and stay healthy. Injuries plagued his 2016-2017 campaign and if he can stay on the court, he can be a huge boast to this Pacers squad as a backup point guard running the bench. 

And honestly, to close the season there wasn’t a whole lot of bad to deal with in the second honeymoon. He only played six regular season games and four playoff games and for many of them, he was the Pacers’ 2nd best player behind Paul George. Let’s see if that can continue and the Pacers have re-found their diamond in the rough.

Kevin Seraphin

Season per-game statistics: 4.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.5 assists

Contract: Signed before the start of the season to a 2-year deal, reportedly $1.8 million per year.

The Good: Backup big man minutes. Signed as more of an after thought flier once free agency was essentially over to shore up the big position, Kevin showed why he was drafted with the 17th pick back in the 2010 draft. Injuries to Al Jefferson and Lavoy Allen gave him an opportunity and Kevin took advantage. A sneaky good finisher around the rim but his best attribute was running the pick and roll with Lance Stephenson. The two seemed to hit it off, off the court as friends that transferred on the court. Seraphin picked up his play more than any other Pacers player once Lance joined the team as the two found instant chemistry on and off the court.

With Stephenson in April, Seraphin nearly doubled with season average for points, putting up 8.5 per game in the final six games in only 14 minutes. Seraphin took more free throws in that 6-game stretch (12) than he had in the entire season before Stephenson joined the team (10) and gave him a serious boost of confidence.

Keep that rolling for the second unit please and Kevin has a chance at locking down the backup big rotation minutes. Side note: keep the fun Social Media posts coming!

The Bad: Assists and guarding more athletic 5s. Assists are sometimes hard to come by for a big man but with him running the PNR with Lance so well, there would be many opportunities for those two to create for each other and others. Currently Kevin looks to score first once he catches the ball.

With the majority of the NBA going away from a traditional center, the ability to contest and keep up with smaller more agile 5s is a must. If Kevin could show he can handle chasing guys like Anthony Davis while bodying Demarcus Cousin types in the post he could see his minutes increase.

Seraphin was often played out of position as a backup power forward with Al Jefferson at the center off the bench but they really just seemed to get in each other’s way. Dubbed the double plodders lineup by C. Cooper of Indy Cornrows, the Pacers struggled mightily with that duo on the floor. Seraphin and Jefferson were both far more successful when they were the lone big roaming in the paint area and need to be surrounded by as many shooters as possible. If both are still on the team next year, the Pacers can’t continue to make that same mistake again.

Coroner’s Report: An Autopsy of the 2016-2017 Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers season died today after being swept by the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The sweep was the first in the franchise’s history in a 7-game series. Here’s the autopsy on what caused the Pacers demise in 2016-2017.

Date: 4/23/2017

Patient: 2016-2017 Indiana Pacers
Cause(s) of Death:

  • Larry Bird
  • Nate McMillan
  • Inconsistency
  • Thaddeus Young’s wrist
  • LeBron James

Summary of examination:

Larry Bird:

No better place to start than the top for why the Pacers season died. While Bird did well to add Thaddeus Young for the 20th pick in a weak draft class and the trade for Jeff Teague seems like it’ll work out for the Pacers as long as he re-signs this summer, the team’s various puzzle pieces just never fit together. The team was built with multiple ball-dominant, undersized guards with Teague joining Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey on the roster. Ellis and Stuckey make the fit worse by being woeful shooters from the outside. And because Bird thought he didn’t have enough of these ball dominant, undersized guards, he also added Aaron Brooks.

Al Jefferson was added after Bird couldn’t afford to spend the $16 million per year on Ian Mahinmi that he received from the Washington Wizards, but he was only effective on offense when surrounded by shooters which the Pacers were in desperate need of all season long, instead eating up Jefferson’s real estate to work in the post most of the season were Lavoy Allen or Kevin Seraphin. Jefferson also looked disinterested in anything resembling defense all season, adding to the team’s woes in that area.

By the end of the season, Bird has spent $27 million of the team’s salary cap on three players that gave the Pacers nothing in the playoff series against the Cavaliers. Stuckey was injured and released late in the season, Jefferson never saw a minute of playing time in the series, and I wish we saw that little of Ellis. Even as his playing time shrank to just five minutes played in game four, the Pacers were outscored by seven points in that stretch. They lost the game by four. This was Monta’s biggest highlight of the series.

Ellis and Jefferson still have multiple years left on their contracts though the Pacers can rid themselves of Ellis’s player option for the final season by waiving him before the end of the next season like they did with Stuckey this year. Bird’s spent a lot of precious cap space on players that have made the Pacers worse. The Pacers were outscored by 2 points per 100 possessions with Ellis on the court per NBA Wowy, despite spending much of that time with the starters (CJ Miles with the starters meanwhile was the 5th-best lineup in the NBA that played over 400 minutes together). The Pacers were outscored by 6 points per 100 possessions when Al Jefferson was on the court, and 3 points per 100 possessions with Stuckey. None of these players added anything on the defensive end either besides Ellis’s penchant for guessing correctly to get a steal or two per game. 

Bird’s poor roster construction the last two seasons has wasted two years of Paul George’s prime at the worst possible time as his contract comes another year closer to being up before George can hit free agency after next season.

All these additions led to a roster that had a nasty problem of both too little shooting and too little defense. After years of being in the upper echelon of team defense, the team struggled all season long to be consistent on that end of the court after losing George Hill, Ian Mahinmi, Solomon Hill and Frank Vogel, despite Bird’s confidence that assistant coach Dan Burke would take care of that end.

Bird allowed Vogel’s contract to expire (article had previously said Vogel was fired, but his contract simply wasn’t renewed) after the Pacers lost in the first round to the Raptors in seven games while saying that he wants a “new voice” in the locker room and for the team to play faster. Vogel led the teams to the playoffs every year except for one: the year Paul George recovered from his broken leg. They were one win away from getting the final playoff spot that season. Meanwhile, Bird quickly decided without interviewing any other candidates that his “new voice” to get the team to play faster was a coach that had been with the Pacers the previous three seasons and was notorious for his ultra slow-paced, but efficient offenses at Portland, Nate McMillan, which brings us to the next cause of death.

Nate McMillan 

McMillan in his first year as head coach for the Pacers was dealt a flawed roster from the start (see above) but did little to find ways to put some of these mismatched pieces in a position to succeed. Bird wanted the team to play faster on offense, but they were only 18th in pace this season. Most perplexing of all was McMillan’s decision to start Ellis for 33 games of the season and then two more in the playoffs, even though it was obvious as soon as Teague was acquired that Ellis and Teague would never fit together. Pacers were outscored by nearly eight points per game when Teague and Ellis shared the court in the playoffs. Even after realizing that finally pulling the plug on starting Ellis after the first two games against the Cavaliers, McMillan somehow decided that he should attempt to finish the game with Ellis as he played six minutes in the fourth quarter of game three during the Pacers historic collapse.

Meanwhile, the Pacers starting lineup with either Glenn Robinson III (+6 per 100 possessions) or CJ Miles (+7.7 points per 100 possessions) was one of the better 5-man lineups in the league. When Robinson got hurt, McMillan made the mistake of making the starters worse for the sake of the fit of the bench by going back to Ellis over Miles. It didn’t hurt the Pacers in the regular season as they ended the season with five straight wins, but we saw the effects of it in the playoffs.

He chose to bog down bench lineups with double plodders (pairing Jefferson and Allen or Jefferson and Seraphin or Allen and Seraphin) for much of the season while never giving Georges Niang an opportunity to play as a power forward to see if he could help the spacing issues and stay with a stretch big better than the other bigs that came off the bench. Driving players like Stuckey and Ellis could never find any space in the lane and spent a lot of time bricking jump shots from the outside and Jefferson was short on room to operate from the post in the paint.

The Pacers were very much a team that was living in the past under McMillan with a general a lack of awareness of the 3-point line. The Pacers were tied with the 4th-best 3-point shooting team in the league by percentage at 37.6%, but were a lowly 27th in the league in attempts per game. On the other end of the court, the Pacers gave up the 5th-most 3-point attempts and were 13th in the league in opponent’s shooting percentage from long range (35.5%).

Another of the more puzzling moves from McMillan was his coaching of second-year player Myles Turner. Turner’s usage percentage mysteriously dropped after the All-Star break from 21% to just 16% with McMillan on record of saying that he wanted Turner to not shoot it every time and “distribute more,” but this made Turner hesitant to shoot when opportunities were there as he was stuck thinking too much instead of just playing with instinct. A finger injury in March didn’t help, but the drop in usage started before the injury. Turner got better as a passer throughout the season, but that’s a waste of Turner’s talents when he’s passing out to players like Ellis in the corner. Turner was called the Pacers best shooter and potentially the best Pacers player ever down the line at different times by Bird in the last two years, but Turner went from being the 2nd or 3rd offensive option to only the 4th or 5th for reasons unknown. Turner still has plenty of room to grow by adding strength and gaining more of a low-post game, but there’s no reason that his jump shot shouldn’t have been utilized more in the offense this year.

Too often this team seemed undisciplined and unorganized on defense, and at some point, the team’s inconsistency of play from one night to another comes down to the coach as well, which brings up the next cause of death.

Inconsistency

The Pacers at home this season were one of the best teams in the league with a record of 29-12 that was tied for 7th-best in the league, but on the road, the Pacers record of 13-28 was the 8th-worst in the league. The road woes came even against the bottom-feeders of the league as the Pacers lost to the following non-playoff teams on the road: Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks (twice), Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets (twice) and Miami Heat (twice).

All of these bad losses become even more frustrating when just one more win this season would have avoided the first-round matchup against LeBron James, and the Pacers had a much better shot of challenging the Toronto Raptors or any other team in the East than James and the Cavaliers. By winning only two of these 11 games, the Pacers would have been the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers effort on defense came and went all year. Scott Agness reported after today’s game that the general feeling was that they were “horrendous” on defense all season and that communication was the biggest thing that they lacked.

Some of this inconsistency from early in the season can be blamed on a lack of familiarity with each other as the team was overhauled from the previous season, but they never seemed to find much chemistry until Lance Stephenson arrived on the scene.

Thaddeus Young’s Wrist

Thad Young showed how important he was to the Pacers when he suffered his wrist injury and missed eight games. The Pacers would the first two, but then lost the next six going into the All-Star break. Young came back after the All-Star break and still helped the Pacers with his hustle, effort and array of lefty floaters in the lane, but his wrist was clearly still injured and his improved shooting stroke from outside was unable to make a return in the second half of the season. For a stretch early in his return, he struggled to even catch passes from his teammates.

Young shot 39.6% from 3-point range on 111 attempts before the All-Star break and only 14% after on just seven attempts. Young was unable to even consider shooting from the outside as his wrist recovered. The Pacers were 27-22 before Young’s injury and 15-18 after the injury.

LeBron James

James delivered the final death blow to the Pacers season by being the best player in the world throughout the first-round series. Every time Paul George had an amazing game in the series, James answered. James averaged 32.8 points, 9.0 assists, 9.8 rebounds and 3 steals per game and was the catalyst to the Pacers historic collapse in game three as he was unstoppable while surrounded by four shooters in that fourth quarter and the Pacers had no answer for the lineup. The Pacers could have avoided facing James by taking care of business in the regular season though as talked about above.

Drugs in system at time of death

Abnormal levels of hype and adrenaline

Lance Stephenson, Born Ready, briefly brought this team back from the dead when it looked like the team would fail to make the playoffs as they went 5-1 after he was signed to a 3-year, $12-million deal after Stuckey suffered a season-ending injury. His energy and passion was infectious for the Pacers as the team finally were consistently showing up night after night with their season on the line. The Pacers outscored opponents by 10 points per game with Stephenson on the court in the regular season and look like they have a steal at just $4 million for next season.

For the love of the basketball gods, don’t keep starting Monta & other thoughts

Tell me if you’ve heard this before? Monta Ellis shouldn’t be in the starting lineup.

I’m not sure there’s anyone left on that lonely island (if it were ever inhabited at all) that’s hoping to see Ellis listed among the Indiana Pacers starting five when the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers resumes for game three tomorrow evening.

The Pacers are down 2-0, but they’ve lost these pair of games by a measly seven points combined despite many issues including choosing not to start the game with their best 5-man unit.

Per NBA Wowy (with a h/t to C. Cooper of Indy Cornrows), in the 44 minutes that Teague and Ellis have played together in this series, the Pacers have been outscored by 10 points in 92 possessions (which is greater than the difference in the scoreboard in the first two games).

The problems with Ellis and Teague playing together have been unsurprising as they are what many predicted as soon as Teague was acquired this offseason. Both need the ball to be their best selves on offense, both are undersized, if Ellis doesn’t have the ball he provides zero shooting from the outside to space the floor and while Ellis is a master at getting steals by correctly predicting which way his opponent will go off the dribble, he’s good at little else on the defensive end. The pairing didn’t play well together in the regular season and hasn’t in the playoffs either.

In this series, the Cavaliers have been eager to leave Ellis open on the 3-point line and force the ball out of Paul George and the rest of the starters’ hands. LeBron James has often been the one guarding Ellis, but he’s essentially allowed to roam free with no fear of Ellis making him pay. While Ellis has been aggressive a few times a game off the dribble, you don’t really want him challenging James when you have Paul George on the court being guarded by JR Smith or Iman Shumpert.

Even when Ellis hits a jump shot these days, it feels like a victory for the Cavs, because it’s unlikely that Ellis will hit the next one he takes, but it’s more likely that he’s given himself the confidence to take more anyway. And once again, you’d rather have anybody else on the court take that jump shot with the starters instead of Ellis.

Meanwhile with the return of Glenn Robinson III, the Pacers have three legitimate candidates that could supplant Ellis in the starting lineup: CJ Miles, Lance Stephenson, and Glenn Robinson III.

Mark Montieth said that based on practice jerseys, he thinks Miles may get the start for game three, so that’s a good sign that McMillan is looking for other options.

The Pacers starting lineup with Miles is also one with a proven track record of success: the 5th-best lineup in the NBA that’s played more than 400 minutes together this season. It outscored opponents by 7.7 points per 100 possessions in the regular season (research per Cooper).

The biggest thing that Miles brings is shooting that demands to be guarded. The Cavs can’t leave Miles, who shot 41% from 3-point territory, open on the perimeter like they can with Ellis.

Glenn Robinson III came back with limited minutes in his first game back but hit an open three and didn’t show much rust in his return to action. He’s another guy that the Cavs would have to respect more than Ellis on the outside.

Both Robinson and Miles also provide a bigger body defender than Ellis that while they still can’t check LeBron on an emergency switch, they at least stand a better chance.

The issue with Miles and Robinson starting then becomes what to do about the Stephenson and Ellis pairing that has all the same problems that Ellis/Teague pairing has, but with even less shooting. Per NBA Wowy, they haven’t faired too badly so far in the series but in limited minutes. The Pacers were outscored by just two points in 23 possessions over 10 minutes (8.7 points per 100 possessions) with Ellis and Stephenson both playing.

My personal solution to this problem would be to not play Ellis at all. Either go to an 8-man rotation that features Paul George, Myles Turner, Teague, Thaddeus Young, Miles, Robinson, Stephenson and Seraphin or play Aaron Brooks in very limited minutes as the ninth man. Brooks has had some offensive success playing off the ball with Stephenson and can make an outside shot. In game one, Brooks and the rest of the Pacers looked loss defensively in the first half and he hasn’t seen the court in the series since. In seven minutes, the Pacers were outscored by two points (over 14 points per 100 possessions) with Brooks and Stephenson sharing the court.

Stephenson could also end up starting. While McMillan, George and Stephenson all said that he lost his composure in the third quarter while attempting to guard Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, he’s been a solid addition to the Pacers since returning from his three years in the desert. He’s often been one of the five guys that’s been closing the games final minutes. He’s paired well with Teague so far this series as well. The Pacers have outscored the Cavs by seven points in 54 possessions (13 points per 100 possessions) over 28 minutes while Stephenson and Teague have shared the court.

Other thoughts from the series:

Resident Hot Takes, Gregg Doyel of the Indy Star, even thinks the Paul George hates his teammates, is throwing them under the bus and wants to get out of Indiana as soon as possible narrative that many in the national media have been throwing around is nonsense. If Doyel thinks you’ve gone too far with a hot take, well…

It’s interesting that after losing two road playoff games by only seven points to the defending NBA champions that there would be so much negativity surrounding the team. Perhaps it’s because other lower seeds have won some games or because it feels like the Pacers should have at least won one of these games, but the Pacers were god awful on the road all season and one of the league’s best home teams. If they can get a win at home in Game 3, there’s no reason to think they can’t at least push this series to six games.

Yes, Myles Turner has struggled in his second career playoff series. He’s still protecting the rim well for the most part, but has missed some rotations and Tristan Thompson has done what numerous bigs have done to him all year: destroy him on the glass. He’s driven fans mad with his propensity to double clutch in the paint and needs to add strength this off-season. However, I think he’ll play better in these next two games at home and look more aggressive on the offensive end. Also, calling him soft will always be ridiculous, but probably always be a thing that some people say until he adds more strength on his still young body to not be pushed around down low.

Let’s hope with two days off, the Pacers have come up with a better strategy for guarding the 1/3 pick and roll that has absolutely destroyed them. Help Teague faster when you switch him onto LeBron or fight through those screens better so you don’t have to. And if Lance is going to guard Love again, let’s hope he at least tries to front him and force help from the weakside (like Lance said was the actual plan in the last game).

 

iPacers Discuss: Will Lance make the Pacers dance?

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.

Return of Born Ready: Pacers working on bringing back Lance Stephenson

The Vertical is reporting that the Indiana Pacers are working on a deal to bring back Lance Stephenson after they officially waived Rodney Stuckey earlier today.

Stephenson, who famously declined a 5-year, $44 million deal with the Pacers when hit free agency just a few seasons ago, has played for five teams in the past three seasons: the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Timberwolves.

Update: Now official, Pacers signing Lance to a 3-year deal.

Pacers get a wing for just $4 million for rest of this season and the next. Then if it works out, Pacers can keep Stephenson around for another year on a very cheap contract by utilizing his team option.

The fit is questionable as the Pacers replace one ball dominant guard with another, but Stephenson will bring energy and the crowd at Banker’s Life will be happy to see a fan favorite back on the court.

Stephenson should provide more defensive ability than Stuckey ever did as well. Stephenson likely won’t provide the Pacers will much outside shooting that they need as he’s only taken 12 shots from 3-point range this season and has hit just one.