Lance Stephenson came to blows with teammate Evan Turner on the eve of the playoffs in Indiana, then Stephenson went out and became a meme by blowing in LeBron’s ear. In part due to chemistry concerns, the Pacers didn’t chase him too hard in free agency, so Stephenson went to Charlotte where he clashed with what had been a rock-solid veteran locker room.
The Clippers are counting on Chris Paul, Doc Rivers and their strong locker room to change that trend. They think they can get Stephenson to play nice and return to Indiana form on the court.
Except there’s nothing to worry about off the court. At least if you ask Stephenson.
He’s a dream in the locker room, at least that’s what he said at his introductory press conference with the Clippers, as reported by Arash Markazi of ESPN.
“I’m going to work hard this season to get those rumors out,” Stephenson said as he was formally introduced as a Clipper at a news conference at the team’s training facility on Thursday. “That’s not the issue. I’m very good in the locker room. You can ask all the players that I’ve played with. You can ask the coaches. I’m very good in the locker room.
“When I’m on the court I got that type of energy where it looks like I’m yelling at somebody. But when I talk to my teammates it amps them and makes them work harder. I want to take that [negative] title off my name because that’s not me. I’m a good locker room guy.”
There’s no reason to get into a debate if he had some locker room issues in the past — he did — because this is his reality now:
He better not have any in Los Angeles if he wants to get paid in this league.
He’s got two years, $18.4 million left on his contract, but the second year of that is a team option. If he flames out off the court — or can’t produce on it — the Clippers can just decline the final year of that deal. And if that happens Stephenson is going to find himself near the bottom of the NBA pecking order.
Los Angeles isn’t Stephenson’s last chance, we all know in sports guys with potential get a lot of chances. But the road back to where he wants to be — and a decent payday by NBA standards — is a long and winding one if L.A. doesn’t work out.
If one thing can motivate behavioral changes, it’s cold hard cash. We’ll see if it works in this case.