In Perfect Lance Stephenson Fashion, Lance Stephenson Started (The NBA Equivalent Of) A Brawl With A Meaningless, Late Game Lay-Up
First of all, I’m not at all surprised that the Toronto Raptors overreacted to getting scored on in a game that was far beyond well in doubt. That’s what NBA teams are apparently encouraged to do when they suck so badly that wide open lay-ups are supposed to be passed up on to spare their feelings. I get that - despite his Steve Urkel-esque “did IIIIII do thaaaaaat??” expression - Lance Stephenson showed up his opponent by not following the unwritten rule of dribbling the clock out in a blowout. Still, if you get destroyed by a team that was in such turmoil that their last gasp quick fix was to add a former player that has played his way out of the league so many times that teams weren’t comfortable giving him a contract that lasted longer than a week and a half then you deserve to get stunted on with an ironically understated finger roll.
That’s neither here nor there though, because what really confused me is the announcers criticizing Lance Stephenson for doing exactly what Lance Stephenson was brought in to do. Aren’t these “analysts” supposed to do their homework on each player - no matter how small their role - prior to the telecast? Lance Stephenson wasn’t signed to solidify Indiana’s second unit. He wasn’t expected to bring any inherent intangibles to the roster. I can’t imagine these “experts” truly thought he was being asked to add something commendable - like leadership - to the locker room. Paul George recently spoke to the chaotic state of the foundering team that he’s patiently waiting to spurn in free agency next summer, and - with so little time left to go in what’s been an objectively disappointing season - the only option was to organize that chaos. Lance Stephenson can’t be trusted for a lot of things, but you can absolutely lean on him for the “herrrre we go again”, ’Johnny Drama’ moment that strong-arms the entirety of the team and fanbase into uniting in his defense.
To the Indiana Pacers organization, Lance Stephenson is the erratically belligerent friend in the group that can’t hold his liquor. He’s that guy who is going to take one too many sips of his own Kool-Aid only to do something wildly unnecessary that leads to a bar clearing brawl that ends with all his boys sitting in a holding cell laughing uncontrollably while recapping every inaccurate fist that was thrown. Obviously no fists were thrown because this is an NBA fight we are talking about, but Lance Stephenson fulfilled his duties by forcing his teammates into finally banding together to complete a common goal... of cleaning up the shit that he intentionally stirred into a pot tipping boil.
I don’t know what makes this Pacers team tick, but the last time Indiana was relevant their best players were (allegedly) boning each other’s wives while Lance Stephenson was blowing sweet nothings into the ear of the greatest player on the planet. They might not be anymore of a contender with an enigmatic child making a mockery of the game, but that enigmatic child is going to at least make sure they stick together throughout the complete mess their season has become…even if it means enraging a couple self-righteous basketball purists along the way....
That might not be considered a need for most teams, but - considering the ovation he got for making an uncontested lay-up in garbage time - it's a need for the team whose best player is publicly criticizing their pride and direction on a bi-weekly basis. That was the most fight anyone has seen from Pacers all year, and that says more about the Pacers than their need for a player that somehow exhausted a promising career's worth of chances over the the three years he spent away from the place that is a perfect fit to his skill set.