Lance Stephenson didn't exactly go out with a bang at the end of his 2013-14 season.
His performance throughout the year ended up being completely overshadowed by his childish antics, which Bleacher Report's Stephen Babb speculates could turn into a big loss for him during the upcoming free-agency period.
Even if we look past the taunting of LeBron James and the inexplicable decision to blow in the four-time MVP's ear earlier in the series, it's impossible to forget about his clown act during Game 6. It was the lasting image for a team that fell from grace rather quickly, ending its plummet from the NBA's realm of title contenders with a 25-point loss in a game that was more of a rout than a blowout.
Stephenson started things off by standing over LeBron and refusing to move. That was more of a "whatever, it's Stephenson" move than anything else, but he took things to an extreme later on. First was touching LeBron's face:
Then the flagrant foul against Norris Cole, one that I maintain should have resulted in an ejection:
Not a good luck for "Born Ready," huh?
After the game, the subject turned to Indiana's future, and the rest of the Pacers were rather non-committal when asked about whether Stephenson would come back. After all, he's a free agent once the season officially draws to a close, and his price tag might exceed what the team is willing to spend.
And that's assuming the Pacers even want to bring him back.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells and Brian Windhorst reported, "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."
But let's steer clear of anonymous sources. After all, we have an Indiana star who spoke on the very subject after the embarrassing loss:
First, let's clear up any confusion.
Even though Twitter irresponsibly decided to look only at the first part of his statement, there was more to it than that. Here's the full opening part of his answer, just in case you don't want to watch the video: "I mean, I don't know. That's for Larry, Kevin to decide. We came into this league together, it would be great for us to continue our journey together."
George didn't just say he doesn't know if he wants him back. He said that he doesn't know what the management will do.
Context is important.
Nonetheless, the Pacers' best player couldn't commit to Stephenson returning, instead admitting that the process was full of uncertainty. David West agrees:
Then there's another member of the front court.
"Center Roy Hibbert even commented about selfish dudes' in the locker room, and it was reportedly directed at Stephenson," wrote Babb. "If Larry Bird cares about chemistry, you can bet these concerns weigh heavily on him."
Ultimately, we won't know anything until much later in the year.
On one hand, Stephenson is an All-Star-caliber talent, a 23-year-old shooting guard who isn't even close to tapping out his potential. He was rightfully considered a snub during the 2013-14 campaign, and it's highly likely that he only gets better.
But is he worth the drama?
When he plays well, Stephenson's antics are easy to live with. The excessive celebrations, boneheaded plays and reckless decisions are all just part of the overall package. But when he doesn't play well, things are more questionable.
The Pacers have one tough decision on their hands. Here's hoping Bird and the rest of the front office was born ready to make such a call.
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