The Indiana Pacers are declining the $4.4 million option on Lance Stephenson for next season. This is a little about Stephenson but more about the Pacers wanting maximum payroll flexibility heading into this summer, as they look to build a deeper team with another star around Victor Oladipo.
Players know the NBA is a cold, bottom line business. The Pacers will do what is best for the Pacers and fans will cheer it, even as that throws other lives into a state of flux. Players get the dichotomy — or, as they see it, hypocrisy — that’s true in every sport: Fans will rip players for doing what they want and is best for them if it hurts their team, but will praise that same team for a cold-blooded move.
In the wake of the Pacers letting Stephenson go, Indiana’s bad guy of last summer Paul George chimed in on Instagram.
The Pacers were not wrong to do what they did. It’s the business. It just can sting players.
To the dismay of some fans in recent years, elite players have been more and more willing to use their leverage to get what they want. George wanted out of Indiana, just as Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio, and both are willing to push for it (and to where they want to go) more than previous generations. LeBron James and Kevin Durant will push to form superteams. NBA players feel they have to control their own destiny now, not just be the pawns of teams.
You may not like it, but it’s not changing. Paul George will make the decision this summer as a free agent that’s best for him and his family.
What’s also not changing is that teams will do whatever is in their best interest.