Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
From players to the coach, mid-level staffers to management, the message to Lance Stephenson the last two days was simple: Shut up and play. No more public shots at LeBron James, no more lighting a blowtorch under the best player in the world. Just basketball, they told Stephenson, who vowed his sideshow days were behind him.
“We just gotta play,” Stephenson said on Monday. “Stop worrying about all the other stuff.”
This is Stephenson though; no player this side of Tony Allen is as wildly unpredictable. So there he was on Wednesday, ratcheting up the antics instead of toning them down, declaring a mental war on James when he promised everyone peace. When James passed, Stephenson gave him a shove. When he shot, Stephenson stuck his legs underneath him. During a dead ball Stephenson — in what became a Vine that nearly broke Twitter — blew in LeBron’s ear, a soft breeze that pushed an incredulous look onto James’s face. For the first time this series Stephenson crawled up into the four-time MVP’s head and stayed there, forcing James into uncharacteristic early foul trouble in Indiana’s 93-90 series saving win.
“It’s Lance being Lance,” Paul George said. “I hope his breath wasn’t too bad for LeBron.”
Lance Stephenson might not be the most mature player, but the kid has balls. Big ones.
Why should Celtics fans care about Lance? Because he’s an UFA this July. While there are no reports indicating the Celtics have interest in the 6-5 Stephenson, I think they should. He has the talent and make-up to become a franchise player.
Why would the up-and-coming Pacers let a valuable contributor walk?
Putting it in Indianapolis terms, Stephenson is like a race car. The performance can be incredible and awe-inspiring. But he requires constant maintenance by the entire operation, and losing focus for one second can lead to various levels of disaster. This, naturally, can and has grown tiresome.
In the past three years, all of the Pacers’ core players — Hill, Hibbert, West, George — have been signed to long-term deals. Now it is Stephenson’s turn. Bird has always supported him. He stuck his neck out to draft him despite Stephenson’s checkered past and red flags. Despite Stephenson’s tantalizing talents, sources said there are many in the organization who don’t think it’s a good decision to give him a rich, long-term contract, given the way he has acted during the season.
Stephenson is 23 years old. It’s possible we are witnessing him at his most immature. Then again, some guys never grow up (see Ramirez, Manny).
What is Stephenson’s price range? Anywhere from $7 – $10 million. Avery Bradley is in the same range.
I should mention that Stephenson was arrested for violently assaulting his girlfriend in 2010. The case was dismissed.
So what do you think? Am I crazy for wanting Danny Ainge to kick the tires on Stephenson?
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