In Lance’s own words he’s “just playing ball.” During Wednesday night’s pivotal Game 5 between his Pacers and the Miami Heat, “playing ball” included stifling defense, clutch driving layups and blowing air into Lebron’s ear during a stoppage of play.
While odd for sure, this has been par for the course when it comes to the bizarre Stephenson. It’s just “Lance being Lance,” Paul George said after Game 5. Reminiscent of “Manny being Manny” which slowly became code for “DAMMIT MANNY QUIT EFFING AROUND FOR CHRISSAKES.”
His unique brand of basketball trolling is polarizing, seen by some as competitive gusto and others as distracting nonsense. Stephenson clearly sees it in that Harry Hogge, “Rubbin’ is Racin'” all’s fair in love and basketball kind of way. In his mind he got into LeBron’s head. He can arguably get into anyone’s head but can he get out of his own? The question front offices will be asking themselves this offseason is, “Does Stephenson’s talent and court contributions outweigh the trash talking, the opposing huddle joining and the blowing sweet nothings?” It is a question Hornets fans will fans will be asking as free agency fast approaches and Lance becomes a top target in Buzz City.
6’5″ 230lbs with point guard handles that have Jalen Rose incessantly chanting “Lance to make’m dance.” Strong and athletic, he can force his way to the basket with an explosive first step and finish acrobatic layups with a soft touch. He’s extended his range and can consistently be counted on to deliver perimeter scoring. In transition, Lance uses his big shoulders and an extra gear to get all spectacular on a crowd as evidenced here:
His defensive tactics are aggressive, complex and….creative? It doesn’t matter if he’s on Lebron or Mayo, Lance can get into shutdown mode like few others in the league. He also attempts acts of flopping that make King James look like a Bad Boy Piston.
But, but, but, but…he’s only in his fourth year in the NBA at 23 years old and finishing out his rookie deal.
So much talent, so much promise. It’s a shame that Lance carries around gimmicks and bulletin board material with him, ready to pull them out at inopportune times. Don’t get it mixed up, he can say he’s just “playing ball” but all of these “tactics” boil down to pick-up ball nonsense. Reserved for clay and asphalt, not hardwood and arena lights. None of it gels with championship winning basketball. Entertaining or not, NBA championship teams are serious and methodical, their players focused and disciplined. Even the off the court characters like Metta and Rodman centered up when the ball was tipped. They CERTAINLY wouldn’t have allowed themselves to be dragged down the court.
YOU’RE GOING TO MISS THE BUS LANCE!
Lance subscribes to the same school of thought as another on-the-court rebel, J.R. Smith, who famously got in trouble for untying the shoe laces of opposing players during free throws breaks. He was just trying to help his team win, right? Do whatever it takes, right? Wrong. J.R. found out that these kind of antics wore thin quick when the losses started to pile up for the Knicks. Does J.R. care all that much that it wore thin? Probably not. Would Lance if he found himself in a similar situation? Or would he shed the gimmicks and give in to greatness?
A change of scenery would almost certainly make a difference. Indiana doesn’t seem to have the leadership amongst the players or the staff that could help to check Stephenson’s swagger. In Charlotte, he won’t find the quiet youth of Paul George or the pouting entitlement of Roy Hibbert. Instead he’ll find the strong leadership of Kemba Walker, the tough consistency of Al Jefferson, (hopefully) the passion and fire of McRoberts and most importantly the assured confidence of coach Steve Clifford.
Stephenson is reaching his prime years as a professional basketball player but it comes with by-products. With the rim rocking dunks, you get dunderheaded flops. With nimble dances through the lane, you get shimmies and shows to the cameras. A wise sage once said, “You take the good, you take the bad and there you have…” the facts of Lance.
Let’s just hope if he does become a Hornet he doesn’t wet-willy LeBron.
You can follow Doug @QCHDoug and listen to him every Friday at 6:30pET on Hive Talk Live.