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Larry Bird Irked by Lance Stephenson Blowing in LeBron James' Ear in Game 5

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Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMay 29, 2014

UPDATE on Friday, May 30 at 8:20 p.m. ET by Adam Fromal

A few central figures in the Eastern Conference Finals are just done with Lance Stephenson's antics. 

"He said, 'Don't do it again,' so I'm not going to do it again," the dynamic 2-guard told ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst after Indiana's shootaround prior to Game 6. "He's kept me on the right path my whole career, and if he says something to me, I take it to heart."

The he? That would be Larry Bird

When Bird talks, the Pacers should listen. After all, Stephenson even admitted, once more via Windhorst, that he doesn't think his distractions are working:

I don't think I can get into LeBron's head. He's the best player in the league, he knows how to play through that kind of stuff. I don't think it bothered him at all. I have a lot of respect for him. He's going to find a way to play great.

But while Stephenson is listening to Bird, you don't have to worry about listening to Chris Bosh

He's done with the pest on the other team: 

Chances are, Bosh won't have to entertain many more questions about the Pacers shooting guard. After all, this series seems like it should be drawing to a close quite soon. 

--End of update--

 

ORIGINAL TEXT

Most of us were either entertained or just perplexed by Lance Stephenson's decision to blow in LeBron James' ear during the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. But the man who matters most was less than enthused, according to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt.

"Asked via text message if he was bothered by Stephenson blowing in James' ear, Pacers president Larry Bird replied, 'Yes I am.'"

Stephenson's breath of not-so-fresh air has spawned countless photoshopped memes online and drawn reaction from a number of relevant parties.

Miami Heat guard Ray Allen told the media it was "buffoonery" after the game.

Teammate Paul George quipped that, "It's Lance being Lance. I hope his breath wasn't too bad for LeBron."

Even Pacers coach Frank Vogel commented, per Zillgitt: "Blowing in his face probably crosses the line. That's not really who we are. We want to be a competitive team, but we don't want to cross the line."

May 24, 2014; Miami, FL, USA;  Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird watches the game against the Miami Heat in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers 99-87. Ma
USA TODAY Sports

 

Of course, Stephenson's thoughts on the tactic just might be the most priceless of all, but he isn't going there, according to CBSSports.com's James Herbert:

Stephenson himself didn't comment on it, and after all the talking that he's done in this series, that was probably a wise move. He might not have changed his on-court antics — he also joined a Miami huddle and earned a flopping fine in Game 5 — but his team definitely delivered a message about his public remarks. Bird would approve of that, at least.

The most Stephenson would say when asked about blowing in James' ear? "Just playing ball," per IndyStar's Zak Keefer.

Keefer notes that this is merely the latest event in the 23-year-old's bizarre tenure with the Indiana Pacers:

No, don't expect Stephenson to be calling out what he believes to be any of James' "signs of weaknesses" any time soon. Call it the latest lesson in Lance's long learning process.

As his teammates have come to know, as his coaches have come to know, heck, as the whole city has come to know: With Stephenson, you are forced to take the good with the bad. And you will get a lot of both.

The good has mostly spoken for itself. Stephenson enjoyed a breakout season and emerged as one of the league's better two-way players. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists for the Pacers this season, establishing himself as one of the team's best scoring options and playmakers.

INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 28:  Lance Stephenson #1 of the Indiana Pacers looks on during the game against the Miami Heat in Game Five of the East Conference Finals at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 28, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly
Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

His production has remained steady during the postseason, and Indiana often looks to put the ball in his hands during half-court situations—especially in order to run the pick-and-roll.

But talent alone may not save Stephenson. According to ESPN.com'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."

The latest incident probably won't help in that assessment.

Stephenson made under $1 million this season and is in store for a hefty raise one way or the other. Given Indiana's need to protect chemistry, that raise may come from somewhere else. The Pacers can afford the pay increase, but they can't afford to jeopardize their locker-room dynamic in times like these.

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