By: Will Stevenson
*Cues “Cold Blood” by: Yo Gotti feat J Cole*
I love the NBA. As far as basketball goes, I love it. Politically and public relations are lacking, but nevertheless, I love basketball. When I was younger I followed what was in front of me; NBA on NBC, TNT and TBS and the Bulls on WGN (showing my age). I didn’t know the stories of the players; I just knew the stats. I didn’t follow the whereabouts of players back in the 90s, the transaction didn’t take place often enough for me to pay attention. Now, I can’t seem to keep up with who’s still in the league, fringe players, who went overseas or who’s trying to get back in the league. Often I attach myself to certain players who were good in college, but weren’t looked at as good, pro prospects. Enter: Lance Stephenson
Truth be told, I only liked Lance Stephenson because his name is similar to mine, so when he went to the Pacers, my name could be said in the game. I remember he used to sit the bench, but I knew he had some game. He was a tweener in every sense of the word for the NBA, but landed on a team that could use his abilities. He couldn’t shoot threes, jumpers, or free throws. He is too much. He played defense on the wings and guards while distributing the ball. He made fancy passes and dribbled himself into turnovers. He also played for the Pacers that needed a boost once Danny Granger went down and they were getting smoked by the Heat in the playoffs.
Lance was always a wildcard any many eyes once he was a Cincinnati. He was one of the few that was one-and-done after he bolted for the NBA after just his Freshman year. Speaking of Lance, Cincy has always had guys who kept an edge: Steve Logan, Melvin Levitt, Kenny Satterfield, Yancy Gates, Demarr Johnson, James White, Nick Van Exel, Jason Maxiell, Ruben Patterson, Kenyon Martin.
While Lance sat the bench, Lance learned, even after giving the choke sign to LeBron in the playoffs. When Lance got his change, he took over, becoming the de-facto point guard and the Robin to Paul George, a rising star at the time. Then it happened, the kiss in LeBron’s ear. That seemed to be the start of the downward spiral of his career.
That offseason, there was a 4yr 42-million-dollar offer from the Pacers. Lance turned it down, seeing that Gordon Hayward was offered 4yrs 64 mil from the Hornets that was matched by the Jazz. With the lockout looming, and the cap going up (what we saw this summer!) Lance was banking on making it with a fringe playoff team and hitting the lottery in the offseason. I don’t think Lance looked into Steve Clifford being the coach of the Hornets. In free agency, the player picks the team when they have the option. Usually, a coach will play that player, even if they struggle. With the type of game Lance had, he wasn’t able to stay on the floor with the Hornets. Lance wasn’t the type of guy to settle for “defensive” guy or “backup”. He was in the Eastern Conference Finals just a few months ago.
Fast forward a trade to the Clippers for Spencer Hawes, then a trade to the Grizzlies where he was able to shine during their playoff exit. This summer he signed on with the New Orleans Pelicans. With Tyreke Evans, Drew Holiday, and Quincy Pondexter out to begin the season, it was between Lance and Alonzo Gee for the final roster spot. Alonzo Gee? This is what it has come to for Lance. The year Lance left for Charlotte, Paul George broke his leg, which would have been Lance’s team until George returned. What a crazy world.
The Hornets are playoff contenders yearly, dishing out money for MKG and Cody Zeller. The Pacers basically replaced Lance with Monta Ellis as the Pacers look to regain their conference relevance. The Clippers paid everybody who isn’t relevant on their team, and the Grizzlies signed Chandler Parsons.
Lance has the talent, but not the overall skills that make coaches want to pay him. Almost every coach would love to have him on their team, for 2 million dollars with clauses that keep it from being guaranteed. He penetrates defenses, passes, guards up to four positions, one-man fast breaks, rebounds and can take over when the others are out of the lineup. At his age, he still has a chance to return this season. He can still get that contract he wants, he just needs the right situation.
Lance needs surgery for a tear in his groin. He was released by the Pelicans early Monday Morning.
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