The Pacers would seem to have a difficult decision regarding whether or not to bring back Lance Stephenson on a long-term deal in free agency, given his questionable behavior during the team’s playoff loss to the Miami Heat.
But really, they don’t have much of a choice.
Indiana doesn’t have any salary cap space to go out and add talent to the roster in free agency, but is able to offer Stephenson a new contract to stay. For that reason, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that they went with a somewhat over-the-top gesture to convey their interest in re-signing him.
From Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
>>At 12:01 a.m. this morning, Lance Stephenson and company were with the Indiana Pacers’ team brass at a private party, watching a movie in Stephenson’s honor.
>>The movie was a secret to Stephenson.
>>Parts of the movie featured a few words from Larry Bird, Pacers president of basketball operations, and coach Frank Vogel.
>>Sources say things got “emotional” for Stephenson’s loved ones at certain parts, especially when the ‘Born Ready’ life story began reflecting on his journey to climb out of Coney Island.
>>In the past, the Pacers have done things for their free agents. Last year, the Pacers did something cool for Paul George, but this is the first time for a movie. A team source said, “It gets bigger every year.”
The Pacers reportedly hope to hear something from Stephenson as early as today as far as a decision, but it’ll be interesting to see just how high they’re willing to go on a contract for the talented guard whose actions have proven to be problematic at times.
Stephenson, as you may recall, engaged in plenty of non-basketball nonsense with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals, most notably blowing in his ear and smacking him in the face during a dead ball situation. These moves were condemned by Bird and Vogel at the time, but again, as far as constructing the roster to continue to contend moving forward, they simply don’t have much of a choice but to do what they can to retain Stephenson’s services.
Stephenson may very well continue to improve as a player, but his maturity is the biggest question moving forward. Indiana could be hoping that Stephenson puts together a strong first half of the season under a new contract, which may make him valuable in trade before the midseason deadline passes. The Pacers need to do something to get better, because following a late-season slide and yet another playoff loss to the Heat, it’s clear they won’t be able to progress any further until they switch out some pieces on that roster.