“It’s not even about stats. It’s just about a different kind of energy that we really need. Lance has given us a different vibe as a team.”
That was Pacers coach Rick Carlisle Saturday night after Lance Stephenson came off the bench and scored 16 points with a career-high 14 assists, leading the Pacers to an upset of the Jazz. Through four games in Indiana, Stephenson is averaging 14.3 points on 70.4% shooting, dishing out six assists a night.
That has the Pacers looking to keep Stephenson around the rest of the season, reports Marc Stein.
The Pacers are expected to keep Lance Stephenson for the rest of the season, league sources say, thanks to his very strong play in this third Indiana stint that has won admiration from Pacers coach Rick Carlisle.
Stephenson has one day left on his initial Indiana hardship deal.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) January 9, 2022
The Pacers have the roster spot. They are also just a couple of million below the luxury tax line and will undoubtedly want to stay south of that number, but signing Stephenson will not put them over. Major moves at the trade deadline would impact the bottom line more than the Stephenson signing.
Indiana needs the boost Stephenson brings. Projected as a lock playoff/play-in team before the season, the Pacers are 15-25 — and the worst crunch-time team in the league. The Pacers have an almost even net rating, they should have a 20-20 record, but the team is 4-18 in games within five points in the final five minutes. The inability to close games has cost them.
Lance Stephenson will not change all that by himself, but he is a boost.