At the end of March when the Pacers were right in the thick of their second-half struggles, Roy Hibbert lashed out at his teammates following a loss to the Wizards.
“Some selfish dudes in here,” Roy Hibbert muttered. “Some selfish dudes. I’m tired of talking about it. We’ve been talking about it for a month.”
“We play hard, but we’ve got to move the ball,” Hibbert said. “Is it obvious, or what? I don’t know whatever our assist ratio, or whatever it is, is in the league, but it probably isn’t up there. I’m really trying hard not to spaz out right now, but I don’t know. We’ve been talking about it for a month. I’m not handling the rock. I don’t know. I’ve made suggestions before and we do it for, like, one game, and then we revert back to what we are. I don’t know. I’m not the one to answer that question. It directly affects me and the bigs. We’re just out there and it makes us look bad.”
As it turns out, Hibbert wasn’t taking down a group of players with these remarks. Instead, they were directed solely at Lance Stephenson.
From Mike Wells and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
Hibbert didn’t come out and identify the player directly to NBA.com’s David Aldridge, but he was talking about Lance Stephenson on March 28 after a loss in Washington, when he said “there’s some selfish dudes” in the locker room. …
After Stephenson missed out on the All-Star team, he changed. He started a bit of a personal vendetta against East coaches, wanting to personally send a message in those games, which took him further out of the flow on some nights, sources said. Overall, the team noticed a shift in Stephenson from a more team-oriented approach to a more self-oriented focus, where he started obsessing about his statistics. People within the team believed his upcoming free agency was also a motivating factor for Stephenson, who wanted to enhance his value, something he believed suffered when he didn’t get an All-Star nod. …
Stephenson’s act had long worn thin by late March. When the players had meetings to address issues with the sudden struggles, Stephenson sometimes wasn’t involved. Occasionally he appeared to be unaware they were even happening. Most players on the team, now that they were losing, shared similar feelings about Stephenson, but did not vocalize their problems publicly.
Stephenson is a wild card to be sure, and on the court that had worked in Indiana’s favor over the first half of the season, when he was a nightly triple-double threat while playing within the team’s offense.
But everything in that ESPN piece is well-researched and valid, and if general managers around the league are paying close attention, it shouldn’t bode well for Stephenson when he hits the open market in free agency this summer.
This Pacers team is talented, but has struggled with immaturity issues essentially since the All-Star break. Most recently, we saw Stephenson needlessly give LeBron James additional motivation by talking trash through the media, while his teammates blamed the officials for a loss that had zero to do with the fouls that were or were not called.
Stephenson has been the personification of that, and it appears as though he might be better-suited playing for a team with some veteran personalities that can help him focus on the task at hand. The Pacers were once the favorites to retain his services as a free agent, but the way things have continued to unfold simply must have the organization questioning if indeed that would be a wise decision.