Report: Indiana Pacers Question If Lance Stephenson Is Worth New Contract

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

MIAMI, FL - May 24: Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers handles the ball against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2014 NBA playoffs at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on May 24, 2014. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2014 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Re-signing guard Lance Stephenson may seem like a no-brainer to the average onlooker, but the Indiana Pacers could be having second thoughts.

According to's Mike Wells and Brian Windhorst, "Sources said there are many in the organization who don't think it's a good decision to give him a rich, long-term contract, given the way he has acted during the season."

Unfortunately, it will probably take a "rich, long-term contract" in order to retain Stephenson's services. Some team will be willing to give him one, even if that team isn't Indiana.

The problem with Stephenson isn't talent or upside. The 23-year-old had a breakout season and proved more than capable of doing a little bit of everything. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game during the regular season.

His postseason production has been nearly identical.

Nevertheless, Stephenson has also proven to be the kind of locker room headache that may make the team forget all about the numbers.

Wells and Windhorst write that there just might be something to the notion that Stephenson is a selfish player:

After Stephenson missed out on the All-Star team, he changed. He started a bit of a personal vendetta against East coaches, wanting to personally send a message in those games, which took him further out of the flow on some nights, sources said. Overall, the team noticed a shift in Stephenson from a more team-oriented approach to a more self-oriented focus, where he started obsessing about his statistics. People within the team believed his upcoming free agency was also a motivating factor for Stephenson, who wanted to enhance his value, something he believed suffered when he didn't get an All-Star nod.

Selfishness aside, there are also questions about Stephenson's decision-making on and off the court. He most recently expressed regret over discussing his trash talking with LeBron James publicly, admitting to reporters, "We just gotta play basketball and stop worrying about all the other stuff."

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on May 24, 2014 in Miami,
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

In April, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Stephenson's penchant for distraction had reached an all-new level:

On the eve of this Eastern Conference series, the wobbling No. 1 seed punctuated its final playoff preparations in a most self-destructive way: Two Indiana Pacers dragged a cursing, cut Evan Turner out of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court, untangling him from a practice-floor fistfight with teammate Lance Stephenson.

Turner hadn't been the first Pacer to lose his temper with Stephenson these tumultuous several weeks, and Stephenson's relentlessly irritable nature suggests Turner won't be the last. These scrapes aren't uncommon in the NBA, but this confrontation had been weeks in the making and that reflected in the ferocity of the encounter, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Stephenson certainly hasn't been the Pacers' only problem this season, but he's been a common denominator.

With the ability to re-sign Evan Turner, the Pacers could elect to go in a different direction during the offseason. Though Stephenson is unlikely to receive any maximum-contract offers, he could very well demand something in the range of $8-10 million per season.

That could be too rich for Larry Bird's taste, especially if Stephenson is as much trouble as he's estimated to be. The Pacers have to think about more than stockpiling talent alone. They also have to account for locker room chemistry.

That probably means doing away with any risk of selfishness and infighting.

It remains premature to count Stephenson out for good, though. The Pacers could decide that he's simply too talented, that dealing with a semi-constant sideshow is ultimately worth it.

Players with Stephenson's versatility don't come around often.

Whatever happens during the negotiations, don't expect Stephenson to accept much of a discount. After making a shade under $1 million this season, he'll be looking for quite the raise.