We’re talking about Indiana’s prodigal son who signed for bigger money with the Charlotte Hornets following the 2013-14 NBA season.
Fortunately, the air-guitar-playing Stephenson was “Good Lance” for the most part when he donned Pacers Blue And Gold for the third time in his nomadic NBA career.
It was a far cry from the immature “Bad Lance” who made bone-headed plays at the worst possible time from 2010 to 2014.
Consequently, it wasn’t uncommon for then-Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to yank Stephenson from a game because of his untimely miscues.
Some ten years or so later, we’re looking at a better version of Stephenson who the Pacers should re-sign for the 2022-23 NBA campaign and beyond.
Let’s delve into three reasons why.
3. Stephenson Brings Veteran Savvy
Not including Stephenson’s stints with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Liaoning Flying Leopards in 2019-20 and the NBA G League’s Grand Rapids Gold, Stephenson has played in the NBA for roughly 11 seasons.
That’s a nucleus with an average of barely 23 years of age.
Bringing back Stephenson means only he and point guards Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell are the Pacers who will be at least 30 years old when the 2022-23 NBA season kicks off.
Stephenson can help develop young backcourt studs Haliburton, Duarte, and Washington.
With Stephenson in tow, the sky’s the limit for Haliburton and Duarte – the two cornerstones of the Pacers.
2. Lance Developed Great Chemistry With The Pacers’ Young Studs
As the 2021-22 NBA season wound down, the Pacers lost 10 games in a row.
Their 25 wins was their worst showing since the 1984-85 NBA campaign.
Nonetheless, Stephenson somehow meshed seamlessly with the Pacers’ young studs.
Lance Stephenson on Oshae Brissett's reverse dunk: "It was crazy because I didn't even see it and I was like 'Why's everybody yelling?' I seen the replay and I was like 'Oh my god, that was insane!'"#Pacers pic.twitter.com/6BZMyqP3fl
— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) March 20, 2022
Case in point: his behind-the-back pass that led to an insane Brissett reverse dunk against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s hard to develop instant chemistry with teammates you got to know midway through an 82-game grind.
Stephenson somehow did it.
Should Buddy Hield or Brogdon leave via a trade, Stephenson brings veteran stability to a young team that desperately needs it.
1. Lance Stephenson Still Has Plenty Left In The Tank
Stephenson’s a Brooklyn guy, but he considers Indiana his home.
— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) April 12, 2022
He’s far from washed up: he averaged 9.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 40 games off the bench for the Blue and Gold in 2021-22.
Those numbers closely resembled his production during his second tour of duty in Indiana four seasons earlier.
Stephenson’s most recent stat line proves he can still thrive in the NBA.
A two-year deal should allow Stephenson to end his pro basketball career on a high note.
Of course, Stephenson should end it where it began 12 years ago: in Indianapolis.
Regardless how Stephenson’s career with the Pacers ends, he’s forever etched in Blue and Gold lore as one of the most colorful and controversial players in franchise history.