No one saw Lance Stephenson’s third term with the Indiana Pacers coming.
We’re talking about Indiana’s prodigal son who signed for more money with the Charlotte Hornets after the 2013-14 NBA season.
Thankfully, air guitar player Stephenson was largely “Good Lance” when he donned the 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 stupid plays at the worst possible time from 2010 to 2014.
Consequently, it was not uncommon for then-Pacers head coach Frank Vogel to pull Stephenson out of a game because of his untimely errors.
A decade later, we’re looking at a better version of Stephenson the Pacers should re-sign for the 2022-23 NBA campaign and beyond.
Let’s look at three reasons.
3. Stephenson brings veteran know-how
Not counting Stephenson’s stints with the Chinese Basketball Association’s Liaoning Flying Leopards in 2019-20 and NBA G League Grand Rapids Gold, Stephenson played in the NBA for about 11 seasons.
He’s a solid veteran who brings savvy and stability to a young Pacers core that includes Tyrese Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Oshae Brissett, Terry Taylor and Dwayne Washington Jr.
It is a nucleus of barely 23 years on average.
Bringing Stephenson back means only he and point guards Malcolm Brogdon and TJ McConnell are the Pacers who will be at least 30 at the start of the 2022-23 NBA season.
Stephenson can help develop young backcourt stallions Haliburton, Duarte and Washington.
With Stephenson in tow, the sky’s the limit for Haliburton and Duarte – the Pacers’ two cornerstones.
2. Lance has developed great chemistry with young Pacers studs
At the end of the 2021-22 NBA season, the Pacers have lost 10 straight games.
Their 25 wins were their worst since the 1984-85 NBA campaign.
Nonetheless, Stephenson somehow fit right in 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 is everyone screaming?’ I saw the replay and I was like, ‘Oh my god, that was crazy!'”#Pacers pic.twitter.com/6BZMyqP3fl
— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) March 20, 2022
Case in point: his back pass that led to an insane reverse dunk by Brissett against the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s hard to develop instant chemistry with teammates you’ve known in the middle of an 82-game grind.
Stephenson did it somehow.
If Buddy Hield or Brogdon leave via trade, Stephenson brings veteran stability to a young team that desperately needs it.
1. Lance Stephenson still has plenty in the tank
Stephenson is a guy from Brooklyn, but he calls Indiana his home.
— Bally Sports Indiana (@BallySportsIN) April 12, 2022
He is far from washed: 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 stint in Indiana four seasons earlier.
Stephenson’s latest stat line proves he can still thrive in the NBA.
A two-year contract should allow Stephenson to end his professional basketball career on a high note.
Of course, Stephenson should end it where he started 12 years ago: in Indianapolis.
Whatever the end of Stephenson’s career with the Pacers, he is forever etched in Blue and Gold lore as one of the most colorful and controversial players in franchise history.