‘Lance Who?’ apologizes for LBJ slight





INDIANAPOLIS – At times in this series, Lance Stephenson donned a red jersey during Indiana Pacers’ practices to help his team prepare for the threats posed by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Whichever one figured to be the primary attacker, that was the one Stephenson – an athletic, 21-year-old deep reserve on the Indiana bench – simulated as an aid to his team’s defense.

Simulate. Not motivate. That’s the concern now for the Pacers, heading into Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against Miami on Sunday wondering how James will respond to a mistake by Stephenson that was more red-faced than red jersey.

Late in the third quarter of Game 3, James shot a free throw after a technical foul on Pacers forward Danny Granger. He missed it, on the heels of two critical misses from the line late in Game 2, to hoots from the fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That’s when Stephenson erred – he put his hands to his throat in the sports’ universal “choke” sign. And the TV cameras caught it.

That meant it was preserved for posterity and replayed countless times nationally on ESPN SportsCenter and elsewhere. It was a silly bit of exuberance by a young player making most of his contributions as eyes, ears and clapping hands from the Pacers bench – his stint of barely a minute at garbage time Thursday was his only appearance in the series so far and he has played six minutes in two rounds.

But it also was the sort of needless needling Indiana doesn’t want, lest it rankle and inspire James or his teammates. Granted, he and the Heat shouldn’t need a goosing from a Pacers scrub to be driven to even and win the series. But if Lance Whoever gives Miami some video bulletin-board material that does make a difference somehow, he will have stirred up a problem for his side.

Or not.

“Lance … Stephenson? You guys want me to quote about Lance Stephenson?” James said after Miami’s practice. “I’m not going to give him the time. Knock it off.”

James claimed he was unaware of the Indiana player’s gesture, hadn’t seen it in replay or been told about it in nearly 48 hours since and was not going to “stoop down” to deal with it.

We’ll see. Just to be safe, Stephenson made amends to his teammates and coach Frank Vogel Friday, and went into full mea culpa mode after practice on Saturday.

“I was wrong and disrespectful to my teammates, the Miami Heat and their organization,” he told NBA.com. “I’m sorry that I did that. It was very disrespectful.

“I just try to help my teammates out. Encourage ‘em. Try to talk to other players, but in a good way. Get them off their game a little bit but not being disrespectful. I just got out of hand one time, and I’ll never do it again.”

Said Vogel: “He came to me and apologized [Friday morning]. He knows it was wrong. I reiterated to him that it was wrong. Unacceptable. But I fully support the energy he brings from the bench. That’s what I want from my bench, bringing enthusiasm. He’s come a long way in maturity the last two years. So it’s a minor misstep. Not something we condone.”

Stephenson, the 40th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, has been a project in every sense for Indiana, with raw talent, on-court inexperience and off-court issues (an August 2010 assault on a girlfriend that was later dismissed). He wasn’t popular with his teammates as a rookie, bringing more arrogance than a second-rounder who played one season at Cincinnati should.

But his behavior, demeanor and play improved this season. He averaged 2.5 points and 10.5 minutes in 42 appearances, shooting 37.6 percent from the field. Still not good, but his contract is affordable and Pacers president Larry Bird still loves Stephenson’s potential.

As long as he’s more of a positive than a negative.

“He’s grown tremendously in maturity,” Pacers guard Dahntay Jones said. “He’s still a kid, but he’s becoming a man at a fast rate and he’s been doing a great job of accepting responsibility.”

Jones said Stephenson owned up his “overzealous” lapse in judgment to the other players. “We all make mistakes – I think he understands the severity of it, that it’s on the national stage and it’s not necessary,” Jones said. “So he’s owned up to it and accepted the responsibility, that it’s not a smart thing to do for the respect of the game. It’s just a mistake on his books right now and we’ll go from there.”

James sounded like he already was gone from the perceived slight. Ending his huddle with reporters, he said one more time: “Lance Stephenson?”

34 Comments

  1. pat riley the don says:

    Remember what happened in games 4 5 and 6? Oh yeah we punched the pacers in the face a couple of times and they rolled over lol…we never lost to them again…thanks lance!

  2. LeBron says:

    Said Vogel: “He came to me and apologized [Friday morning]. He knows it was wrong. I reiterated to him that it was wrong. Unacceptable. But I fully support the energy he brings from the bench. That’s what I want from my bench, bringing enthusiasm. He’s come a long way in maturity the last two years. So it’s a minor misstep. Not something we condone.”

    And you sir said they were the biggest flopping team in the NBA. Like that’s acceptable. Die hypocrite.

  3. Hoopman-X says:

    Most guys are missing the point. The Pacers organization are repremanding Lance for that “choke” gesture because it seriously undermined their carefully laid out and executed psychological ambush on the Miami Heat in this series. All of the Pacers’ very physical play, the trash-talking , Granger’s in-your-face tactics with Lebron and Wade etc., “no backing down” or ” we ain’t scared of em” repetitive talk was thwarted in that single instance of Lance’s gesture. You don’t wanna get Lebron or D-Wade that wake up moment or renewed motivation to prove a point. Well that’s what Lance inadvertently did. And the Pacers’ top management know it too… You all saw what happened afterwards in Game 4 :-(

  4. SUPERSONICS FAN says:

    Lebron is lying when he says he doesnt pay attention to media, and didnt know anything about the Lance Stevenson gesture. Hes the first one to turn on his tv or check twitter etc.. Its obvious he is so worried about what other people say and do when it involves him.. I hate it when players give BS answers..

  5. Sosay says:

    who cares yo. does everything always have to be so damn pc? when reggie miller did it it was cool, now if you do it you have to make public apolgies…. dumb

  6. Celticsrck says:

    Lance Stephenson who?And thats more mature than the choke sign?Just because everyone isnt as famous or “important” as LeBron James he takes advantage of that.Just proves how much ego he has….

    • mdigenio says:

      i have no problem with the choke sign, when you get some minutes in a meaningful game that is. Lance had zero minutes which entitles him to zero commentary. Lebron has no reason to respect lance especially after lance had the guts to criticize lebrons game. Lance wishes he had the chance to choke, at least it would take him off the bench. And you say lebron has ego? lance is the one with ego, he is the one who thinks he has a right to say anything negative about lebron. An average of zero points (hyperbole) gives you no rights.

  7. Sar says:

    Heat doesnt have a decent closer besides occasionally dwyane wade… Its really affecting their game… lol the ability 2 not close out games Is ‘Brons signature move… :)

    • Daman23 says:

      Come back to me after watching this.

      and the 2011 playoff vs the celtics and bulls. let me know once you’ve watched it and let’s talk again about lebron not being able to close games.

  8. W/E says:

    lol from now on fans should do the choking gesture instead of booing every time LBJ shoots a brick in the 4rth quarter,its more appropriate really.

  9. duro says:

    Anyway, yes. In that game there WAS a player on the court acting very childlish. You all know who.

  10. duro says:

    Is LBJ “reaction” more mature? “Lance Stephenson who?” Veeery funny!

    • q't18 says:

      yes…what will you do if Lebron really doesn’t know lance??’coz he’s just a bench warmer but thanks to his “choke sign” he’s a popular man now!!!but that’s really DISRESPECTFUL!!!he should look at himself first…but yeah, he might not CHOKE ‘coz the guy doesn’t have his BASKETBALL MOMENT ‘coz he’s JUST A BENCH WARMER, and his career at NBA will soon be doomed!!!and by the way DURO, Lance Stephenson who??does he exist at the NBA?????????

    • Sick says:

      @duro maybe you’re Lance GF, coz that guy doesn’t exist in NBA…
      I thought he was a waterboy or something when I heard his name.. LOL

    • LeBron says:

      You expect an NBA player to read wikipedia and know by heart the roster of the other team’s benchwarmers. That’s funnier, man. Way up there right on top of my list on the funniest idiocy of the 21st century.

  11. bhomz says:

    whats wrong with the choke sign??as if Lance is not telling the truth..thats the truth Lebron choke truth hurts..and these writers should stop riding on his jock this man is just an empty shell..and stop talking bout it could play a motivation factor for Lebron Dwade talk bout the mini celebration by Pacers what happen to that?scores 5points in game 3…

    • SPAWN says:

      ok i see ..when lebron do something bad he is a bad player but when his opponent do something to lebron its just ok and lebron is stil bad…get a life haters..

    • brian says:

      choke sign is disrespectful? how about yelling booos! i cant wait all pacer’s fan doing the choke sign tonight during LBJ’s freethrows

    • Sick says:

      PACERS are done!

  12. steve aschburner says:

    me and lance are in a strong committed relationship. This is why im so hard on lance. i can tell you things about lance only me and his mother know. Yes he does have a horse…………. love you lancey!!!!!!!!!

  13. Bev says:

    I am simply sick and tired of people taking “cheap shots” at LaBron. He is a human being just like the rest of us and
    it did not make Stephenson look good to do that.
    I am glad to hear Shaun Powell say something positive about my Heat.

    MsBevBlack nba.com #1 Heat Fan in NC

  14. W/E says:

    omg Lance didnt do anything wrong,he just immitated LBJ signature move,BIG DEAL SO WHAT,LBJ has a really WEAK mentality deep in the playoffs and choking is his signature move he is a joke, a self proclaimed “KING” and “THE CHOSEN ONE”…………..Lance just said the truth there really, and the media are HORRIBLE for OVEREACTING like this, game 4 better be intense but i doubt it…

  15. Baller says:

    I don’t understand this hype about Lance doing the choke sign. Yeah he is a rookie and wasn’t playing and all but it didn’t hurt any until the media found it and had to make it bigger than it is.

    Reggie Miller is still my favourite player of all time and he did the choke sign in MSG directly in Spike Lee’s face. You gotta love NBA Playoff basketball :D

    If Wade can’t turn his performance around and the Heat stay abysmal from deep, the Pacers will go up 3-1. I am really saddened with all those injuries in the East, it just takes away too much from the game. Howard, Rose, Bosh, Shumpert, Davis, Horford, Pachulia, Allen, O’Neal and Noah really show that playing hard is injury prown. Fortunately for the Lakers, Bynum and Pau never do that…

  16. Imad akel says:

    Games come and go but choker stay eternal. did u see kobe made free throws last night? all of them

  17. i love the pacers says:

    I don’t really mind the fact that he did that gesture.. yea it was imature but it is what it is. But for the people that don’t know who lance stephenson is, he is a talented bench warmer for the pacers who scored 22 points against the bulls this season.

  18. bull says:

    a rookie hu cant even score ten shouldnt choke without playing to boost his team8s!.. arrogant one hu havnt even prove even as top 12 of his team. i bet he wont stay long in NBA. Even if Lebron wont do a anything good on miami its not pro basketball player usualy do Mr. Stupidson. u cant even guard the guy. ur coach said LBJ is the most powerful baller. he still leads the Miami Heat and for you?? how long are u going to stay as a KID???? just behave KID b4 something wrong happen to ur team. thanks for the motivation anyway. even if BOSH is not around and WADE would re-compose? MIAMI can end this and goodluck to you!