Blogtable: What about Lance?

Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Indy's Lance Stephenson does a little spying on Miami huddle and coach Erik Spoesltra in Game 5 (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Indy’s Lance Stephenson does a little spying on the Miami huddle and coach Erik Spoelstra in Game 5
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

What do you make of Lance Stephenson?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: You want to know what Lance’s antics detract from? They detract from his marketability. He’s hitting the free-agent market in a month and 30 GMs — not just 29 — have to think long and hard about the prospect of this guy with a big-money, long-term contract. The Lance through the first half of the regular season, the early Most Improved candidate? Fine. But the post-All-Star snub Lance, the guy who became pre-occupied with stats and maybe even took Larry Bird‘s acquisition of Evan Turner as a threat and challenge, merited deeper evaluations. And now, so does this kook who — let’s admit it — isn’t trying to rattle his opponents as much as he’s screaming “Look at me!” If a big contract is at any level a reward rather than an entitlement, there’s a good chance Stephenson will see this rewarding the wrong things. At this point, if he really wanted to show off, his best approached would be 30 points, lockdown defense and zero antics in the Pacers’ latest elimination game. That would serve everybody.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s a product of the times we live in that this is suddenly a so-called “real story.”  Sure, it’s silly. But this is just a game.  What’s the matter with having fun?  The only one who winds up with egg on his face is Stephenson if he can’t follow up on his talk or his antics. Birdman Andersen flaps his wings.  Dikembe Mutombo wagged his finger.  Back in the day, M.L. Carr used to wave his white towel on the Celtics sideline.  Carr once walked up to Maurice Cheeks as he was standing at the foul line for two free throws in the final seconds at Boston Garden and said, “Don’t choke.”  Cheeks missed one of the free throws. Celtics won.  The world didn’t end. Let me know when something truly important happens, say, with a Kardashian.

Lance Stephenson (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Lance Stephenson (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Lance Stephenson is a character, and that can be a good thing. The league needs characters, guys that are a bit eccentric, maybe a little weird, but also play the game  the right way. Stephenson walks the tightrope between character and clown. Blowing in LeBron James‘ ear is clownish, serves no purpose and really has no place in the game. It reminded me of Delonte West giving Utah’s Gordon Hayward a wet-Willie a couple of years ago, though that’s much more of an invasion of personal space (and not very hygienic). West was fined $25,000. Stephenson’s antics obviously affected his team because his teammates essentially said so, deeming it unwise to poke LeBron. This time of year it’s just stupid, unwanted distractions. Stephenson’s a little like J.R. Smith with the silly on-court antics he likes to pull that are mostly mindless, childish and, again, serve no greater team purpose. He also reminds me of the kooky DeShawn Stevenson, but I digress. Stephenson proved this season that he can be a complete player and an essential player for the Pacers. The silly extracurriculars are unnecessary and mostly frowned upon by the people that matter. Stephenson will likely figure that out this summer when he becomes a free agent. Those max deals that were talked about earlier this season. He can blow those away.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I think in some ways he is the face of these Pacers. Not the face of the team or the entire franchise — that’s All-Star Paul George for the roster and Larry Bird in the big-picture — but the epitome of a group that can be very good or very unpredictable. And obviously not always in a good way. While he comes off as goofy to a lot of people, that doesn’t matter. The real issue is how he comes off to the Pacers themselves. They have been desperately searching for stability since late in the regular season, yet get antics from an important player. Fine. It gets Stephenson in the right place to play at a high level. And it should also be pointed out that he deserves a lot of credit for going from a second-rounder a lot of teams wouldn’t touch to these heights. Yet I can’t help thinking that teammates could do without the sideshow.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I really don’t care. It’s a storyline that gives people something to talk about on TV. It’s dumb and unprofessional. But it has nothing to do with who’s winning or losing these games. More important than whether or not he’s blowing in LeBron’s ear is whether or not he’s staying in front of LeBron when he’s defending him.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I think his act is every bit as silly as it looks on the floor, on TV and frankly from Mars. As talented as he is, Stephenson’s “Lance being Lance” routine is simply a court jester act that was tired before it got started. I don’t think it’s some calculated strategy of his to undermine the opposition or get in anyone’s head. I think it’s a coping mechanism for a guy with colossal insecurity that he cannot shake. He reminds me of the former Ron Artest in that he struggles to deal with defeat and individual failure in anything other than a self-destructive way. I lived through some of Ronnie’s best and worst days in Indiana. One minute you’re praising him and the next you’re thinking he needs to be committed. The emotional highs and lows Stephenson experiences during a game are just mind-boggling. The need to assert himself as some dominant figure one minute and then his sulking and selfishness the next make for All-Star drama, but don’t make him a true All-Star. There are much classier ways to handle yourself than blowing in someone’s ear or getting in someone’s face all the time to make yourself feel important. Most of his antics are harmless to others. They only serve to detract from the fact that he’s a hell of a basketball player who spends far too much time perfecting his act instead of his game. He’s not making a mockery of the game with all of the foolishness, he’s only making a fool of himself and mocking the game for all the world to see.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: There was a moment on the Game 5 pregame show on ESPN, just a few minutes before tipoff, when the cameras zeroed in on Lance during the warmups. While the rest of the Pacers were getting up shots, there was Lance in the corner, firing up 3-pointers … with his back turned to the basket. Doug Collins was furious, asking whether Lance would be attempting these type of shots in the game. The thing is, Lance very well might attempt a few back-to-the-basket threes in any given game. And he’d probably make one, too. That’s part of the Lance Stephenson Experience. When you sign up for the ride with Lance, you don’t expect the trip between points A and B to be a straight line — you figure there will be plenty of zigs and zags along the way. But you hope that the whole turns out to contain more ups than downs. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Either way, heading into a Game 6 in Miami, Lance gives the Pacers an elite athlete capable of affecting the game in a multitude of ways, and I don’t think they have many better options than Lance. For better or worse.

Selçuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: First of all, I believe he does not have what you and I would call a normal personality. His brain just works a little differently from the other people. Part of the problem here, though, is that playing a “war of nerves” just isn’t a really common tactic in NBA. You like him when he plays for your team, and hate him when he plays for someone else. And it appears that what he’s doing is good for Indy — that he’s pushing his teammates to play harder. Not to say that the refs shouldn’t watch him a little more. Above all, he seems to be having a lot of fun, and he’s a one of a kind player. Let him play with his style

Aldo Aviñante, NBA Philippines: Born ready! I love his game but his antics? I’m not quite sure yet. A big part of the game is to get into the head of your opponent — that is half the battle. And if you manage to irritate your opponent enough to make them play out of control, all the better. But he should lessen the antics a notch because too much of anything is not good. He can bother LeBron and Dwyane with his raw talent, too. That is where he should focus. He should still respect the game and pick his spots in bothering his opponents. Stephenson is a supremely talented athlete and he will mature into an even better player if he can just focus on playing winning basketball.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Lance Stephenson’s antics have become a distraction. From this series, from Pacers’ problems, from Lance’s talent — which he’s not fully displaying in this ECF. He looks like a bully when he acts like that, one of those playground bullies who try to bother you, because they’re scared by you. It’s not hard to imagine that he acted like that when he was schooling everybody in a Brooklyn playground, and he’s acting the same way today that he’s in the NBA, facing the best player on the planet. What he does on the field, including blowing into an opponent’s ear (that was hilarious) is to some degree part of the game though, like trash talking. The league shouldn’t limit it or try to control it. What I totally don’t like is a player in the other team’s huddle, and that’s where the league should find a way (Tech? Fine?) to stop it. Back to the point at hand: ideally, his antics would be a welcome distraction that could even help his teammates to focus more on the opponent. But if it’s not working, if Stephenson’s antics are distracting even his own team, he should stop it.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: Wow! Lance! Where do I begin? He’s a combination of silly and sly, he frustrates and at times he is brilliant. I enjoy Lance’s antics and believe they are good for the game. He’s a polarizing figure and I guess, someone has to play the bad guy, right? As NBA fans we’re all in awe of LeBron and love watching him at his best but we also enjoy seeing a player attempt to get inside his head and go toe-to-toe. Sometimes it even unsettles LeBron and other times it fires him up but I don’t think his random and unpredictable antics are bad for the game. As long as he plays within the rules and doesn’t go out to hurt anyone, I like seeing the wacky tactics that he uses to get inside the opponents’ head. The Pacers fans love it, he teammates enjoy it and I think it fires him up. You have to take the good with the bad with Lance because you will probably see both multiple times in 48 minutes.


VIDEO: The Game Time crew tries to figure out what’s in Lance Stephenson’s head

40 Comments

  1. The Ripper says:

    Lance is the modern day Reggie miller minus miller time he did the same stuff back in the day the old school the Kobe’s they respect that now get off his case

  2. B Radd says:

    Whaaaat! You all have just lost your minds. Lance gives the pacers that edge with his bad boy image. The Pacers have good players but not great ones. The Pacers are playing with a handful of good players, again, not great players. To have come this far is far way better than the 2nd round of the playoffs. They’re playing the Miami Cheat. A team with not two alpha males, but three. Wade and Bosh are close out players like Lebron and all three are better than anyone on the Pacers roster. Not to sign Lance is freakin’ nuts. They’re there!! They just got to keep bouncin’ back and make it to the playoffs over and over and over until they beat that team of cheaters. Bird’s pruority should be to sign Lance at all cost. An upgrade at the power forward position is a must. But don’t break this teams core.

    • cp10 says:

      I’d rather Lance let his game speak for itself. And Lance should pick on someone his own size hitting Norris like that, that was mean. Then again we don’t know what is being said on the court by both sides.

  3. Max says:

    On any team other than Indiana I might believe a Player, who is obviously challenged, could hang on to play yet another year, BUT NOT in Indiana, IF so, then I will no longer believe the Honor and pride that Larry Bird has always shown. Lance needs Mental Help. He may can at times knock down great shots, but so can many, many more of the NBA players. The chance on having Lance on any NBA team is he may go off and really hurt another team player. He is Dangerous to have on the floor. Get the boy HELP, take away that NBA uniform, he totally distracted his own team! Can Larry Bird allow another year of this type of action? Could cause the Pacers to be looking at a lawsuit, or even worse, Lance could be look out behind bars. He is a guy who has lost it! He Needs Mental Help!

  4. Keith says:

    Talented or not, his antics have no place in the sport – a sport just reeling/recovering from one example of a person treating others with a total lack of respect. Last night he should have been ejected. Not only that but his incitement to cause bad behaviour undoubtedly adversely affects his team performance and his own. And let’s face facts, him and his team got taken out behind the woodshed because his team believes “smash mouth” basketball should be a substitute for talent- eg Hibbert and Vogel who should take note- you have tried this 3 years in a row now and it hasn’t worked. At all. Good job on the home court advantage too. That didn’t work either. Paul George ( genuine talent) and David West (work ethic) are not included in this synopsis.

  5. WTFarfignoogin were you all watching says:

    Everybody keeps talking about Lance and how his antics were a distraction for the Pacers, but NO ONE, is mentioning the fact Paul George scored 1 point almost the entire first half. And the points the Pacers did have were from Lance and West. Nobody is mentioning that George had a horrible playoffs against the Heat. A true superstar brings in either defense or offense and most nights both. Yes, Lance had his issues, which were no different from Dennis Rodman or even Charles Barkley … So cut the dude some slack, get him some talking to, and let the man play ball. Again, stop using Lance as the scape goat. Ask George why he only showed up in the second half in game 6 when no one was really guarding him. Asking about the same thing in game 5. Ask him why he can’t carry the team and push through the “distractions”.

  6. Nick says:

    Ehhh… Lance is the only one whos “willing to fight and die for that inch” as Al Pacino said.

  7. D says:

    The announcers made a good point yesterday saying that if Lebron did anything to retaliate, he would look like the bad guy. The refs or the league need to step in when the antics gets beyond a reasonable level. Some people are saying that Lance’s childish behavior is good for the game.. but what happens when the antics starts a fight or someone gets injured in a non basketball play? By all means, there are plenty of ways of getting under peoples skin. Lance’s defending on Lebron was one example of some good defense that would get under his skin, but the blowing, the touching on the face, etc. I am just happy to watch all of this and show how good of a role model Lebron is. He showed to everyone that through that adversity that it is important to be the bigger person and let the game do the talking. I’m sure he was extremely heated and times especially after game 5 but the poise was something to admire. There are not many people in the league that would be able to keep such good self control… Kudos sir

  8. Jill says:

    Attention, attention, attention. Lance has to have it in and outside of the court. Was he really successful? maybe not, but at least he got the attention. Now everybody is talking about his antics and either or positive comments; his antics are working because he is not a player without skills. He will continue as long as the press will celebrate his antics. Nevertheless he will enjoy his summer time and his free agency.

  9. Anthony says:

    Lance would be a great addition to the bad boy pistons but real talk Lance is a amazing player. The NBA is losing players that play with their heart and go all out and that’s what Lance does. Lance is a hard player to come by and Indiana should not let him leave this summer.

  10. orzbo says:

    I think it’s a wrong message we are sending to young athletes esp in the game of basketball. Fun, hard work, and respect are what the NBA should show the next generation. Imagine young one’s would find what Lance was doing just part of the game and it’s okay to do it. NBA players are professionals… ACT like one even though it’s just a game.

  11. ManUpOrShutUp says:

    The nba should fine lance for putting his mouth on lebron and going over lebron while he’s getting up. Also, for hitting cole in the face. Did you guys see his face as he was about to hit cole in the face?! Sick!

    • TMac says:

      Yeah, his face said it all. He wanted that hit to hurt. Lance swung nowhere near the ball. Oh well…I guess he felt he had to take out his lackluster conference finals performance on somebody other than himself.

  12. okc2014 says:

    Lance can have all sorts of fun, perform all sorts of pranks during his summer break. Which starts tonight.

  13. Just Annoyed says:

    Also, I’m no expert in this game, I think it’s a shame that true experts haven’t voiced this opinion because it is blatantly obvious. If you think, “Oh well they still need to play hard and do it the right way…” yea, you’re right…. Lebron sat out half of that last game in Indiana and they still almost won… Can you think of those Bulls teams in the 90′s… Do you think they could’ve afforded Jordan sitting out half of a game? Let’s get real here, we knew barring any serious injury that Lebron, Wade, Bosch, and Allen were not going to be beat.

    • Cabe89 says:

      Oh yeah its not like the bulls had a problem making it deep into the playoffs after mj’s “stint” in the minors or anything(with all due respect to His Airness)

  14. Just Annoyed says:

    How about the obvious. Lance acts out because this is not at all a normal game. Why treat it like one. James, Wade, Bosch, Allen… WHo thought this team was going to actually lose? And yet again the Heat lose an away game to bring it back home and clinch? Get real guys… Every series, every year… Get real. The NBA needs to respond to how unfair and unexciting this game has become and ESPN has a responsibility to report on truth and not placate with more nonsense.

  15. Tom says:

    The way Stephenson play is discussing! NBA management should do something it became way too much!

  16. Patrick Saad says:

    Lance is quite talented, an all around player with an old school baller character. Some of his moves are really amazing to watch, it’s different than the bulldozer move-out-of-the-way Lebron moves, Lance got that rare basketball magic … He may be a bit weird, but as long as he doesn’t start fights on the floor, it’s all fun and games!

  17. glays says:

    los pacers son el equipo mas agresivo de la NBA
    solo sirven el cara de asustado George
    y el orejas de murcielago # 55
    el numero uno es un payaso , envidioso que solo piensa en agredir a los campeones Heat

  18. TMac says:

    Looks like nobody will be seeing more of Lance’s antics because Larry Bird told him to stop it.

  19. Dizzledude says:

    you see how international writers support the entertaining side of “lance being lance”, while guys like sekou smith just want to see boring professionalism and support the strict NBA fining everything or even enjoy the Heat/Lebron James narcistic ways?
    this forced political correctness on every topic is becoming annoying and takes some fun out of the sport.

    of course some of lance stephenson antics in this series get in lebrons head. they have played 30 games vs each other in the last 2 and a half years, of course you can start to hate to play against him. if it’s effective, like it probably was in game 5, the NBA will do something against it either way. Because the superstar will always be protected. Got fined twice already and if the series was closer at that point a suspension wouldn’t be surprising if he does something like blowing in his face again

    • TMac says:

      And Lebron is the only narcissistic players in the NBA?

      If you think blowing in Lebron’s ear got in his head rather than him worrying about fouling out than God bless you, bro.

  20. horacepower says:

    Hey you guys need something better to talk about. I watched all 82 regular season Pacers games. Lance is a beast!!! Lebron can defend himself .. he doesn’t need all the jock riders doing it for him. Lance do your thang! People are just mad because somebody is willing to STAND UP TO BABY BRON BRON. Pacers win in 7

    • kci says:

      Exactly @horacepower, they need to leave the man alone. He was the one taking it to HEAT nation without fear of being fouled. This is his style of basketball, and so far it’s been productive. LANCE STEPHENSON is ma dude… Hey, did I tell y’all I’m a Celtic?

    • TMac says:

      *off of*

    • cp10 says:

      I like Sekou’s take on Lance’s foolery. I’m watching Pacers game 6 now and it’s 34 60 Heat. I don’t think Pacers can recover from this one. Instead of hating on LJ, learn from him brother, as LJ learned from others – that’s why he’s on that level.

  21. hoosierbasketball17 says:

    Lance Stephenson is a raw talent???????who said that? writer from nba philippines don’t know what his talking about. guy leads the nba in triple double he’s a machine look what he’s doing for his team. hes marketable those players are we need for the NBA!!!!!

  22. Miami Heat Going for 3-Peat says:

    Anthony man great point because your right, I was thinking the same thing when I watching the game SMH. Like if that were me I would of snapped, head butted him like Zidane but to his face and told him blow that. Instead Lebron kept his cool and just smiled but yet none of the refs looked at that like a potential conflict starter. Game 6 will be funny, I want to see if there’s gonna be more antics and if the refs let them slide instead of putting their whistles to work.

  23. NoMilitaryCoup says:

    Lance El Make Em Dance

    Well Done Lance, the NBA needs players like him. There is too much lovey dovey in the NBA right now. Getting under your opponents skin is a big part of basketball. You dont know if it will work unless you try, keep it up lance!

  24. Tyrone says:

    Lance looks like one of those guys who hangs out in the streets and is always cracking jokes, funny as hell. Let him do his thing, there’s not enough people like him in the NBA

  25. Balthazar says:

    he should continue his …what ecer they are… cause if you get a response then you know you are in his head

    the game played today is pathetic

  26. Knuckz says:

    As a Heat fan I looked forward to this matchup. The sad thing is that Lance’s trash talk and silly antics have been in the headlines more than the actual game. I would not want him on my team if I were an owner.

  27. TROYBOY says:

    Why does everyone hate Lance. Look around the league and find another player that has his game. Let the kid enjoy himself. Everyone dislike his antics but the Pacers. People wanted him to show respect for the chosen one so their storyline will stay the same. Most of the writers and so-called experts has been wrong about the Pacers all playoffs and they are frustrated trying to find excuses why Indiana is still in the playoffs. Lance is being a punching bag for all of these experts because they couldn’t figure out the Indiana Pacers. If Lance’s antics is a distraction, why are they still playing?

    Indiana has been called all kinds of stuff by the media. They were projected to lose rd 1, rd 2, and should’ve been killed in the ECF. But they are still here and is frustrating to all the media. I think that’s where all this hatred is coming from. Look at his playoff numbers and compare them to any player left in the playoffs. Where does he rank? He was a nobody 2 years ago to everyone. Give the kid some credit and let “Lance be Lance”. Let time be the only judge to his antics. Maybe 20 years from now, we can look back and say “MAN…THAT KID WAS GREAT” or “THAT KID WAS AN IDIOT”.

    Time will tell. As for now, So far so good. Keep it up Lance. Can’t wait for you to play in LA. But first, you got to win one for the Legend.

    • Game Time says:

      First off, Indiana was never projected to lose round 1 or 2. Their lapse in play made people question them each round and said that it would not be a huge surprise if they got knocked out.

      2nd, you have to be a troll or just don’t know anything about ball to say “who can match Lance’s game?”. Unless you’re talking about matching his antics which in that case their is no one (active) that does.

      Lastly, no one is saying he need show respect, but rather needs to respect the game and not turn it into a circus.

  28. lakers says:

    guy has done nothing this series…before game 5 he was shooting 3s over his head with his back facing the basket….great way to warm up….hes done in Indiana …a lot of talent but no smarts….

  29. Anthony says:

    I like this article but no one commented on the real issue. If Lebron had lifted his arm to block his ear he would have hit Lance and a fight would have started. That was not a basketball play but rather a way to start a physical confrontation. Lebron would have been ejected or hit with a tech if he did anything but stand there and take it which is wrong. So what happens when he starts blowing in a refs ear or he shadow boxes around a player is that okay because he did not touch him. If you want to clean up the game so you get rid of the image of players running into stands make them act professional on the court. If he had blew in his ear and spit came out by accident would lebron had been wrong to push him away?

    • AussieAsh says:

      How is that different to trash talking on the court then?
      We all know that NBA players talk trash to each other, the whole point of this being the fact that it gets in the opponents head or baits them into doing something silly, making a mistake so that your own team can capitalise on it. Whether we want to admit it or not, watch some of the plays off the ball in the NBA, they are very physical with each other, often involving little ‘cheap shots’ just hidden enough from the refs.
      In my opinion Lance’s antics are no different from trash talking. They are both trying to illicit a response from the opponent.

      Fact of the matter is.. it is an escalation of trash talking. And if we allow trash talking, how can we say that you can’t do other things to distract the opponent as long as it doesn’t deliberately harm the opponent.

      And on a final point.. If the exact same situation had happened and it was LeBron blowing in Lance’s ear, would we still be talking about it?? Or if it was Lance blowing in Ben Mclemore’s ear??