“Every championship team needs a guy who is a little bit crazy”
Reggie Miller during the Pacers demolition of the NY Knicks.
Lance Stephenson is another product of Coney Island and Abraham Lincoln High School, the same school which Stephon Marbury attended. Stephenson was a killer as a junior winning back-to-back titles for his high school in his Sophmore and Senior years to go along with his back-to-back player of the year awards. He still holds the record for all-time leader scorer in New York High Schools and was the youngest player featured on the documentary Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot.
Now all this is great, however this is not what separates Lance ‘Born Ready’ Stephenson from the rest. What makes Lance different is, and I think Reggie put it best, is that he is ‘a little bit crazy.’
Scattered amongst all those awards is Lance’s wild attitude which has resulted in a failed attempt to join the under 18 National team due to ‘chemistry issues’, suspension from school for altercations with a team mate and a few misdemeanor assault charges. Throw all that together and you have found yourself one of those boxes of chocolates Mrs Gump seems to always be banging on about.
While the crazy antics can sometimes get out of control and become something that should definitely not be highlighted as a positive, it is that very same wild side that has given Lance the edge to become the player he is this season, albeit much more channeled. In the process Lance has help the Pacers become genuine championship contenders and whilst also gaining himself entry into my 2013 All Crazy squad, alongside Boogie Cousins, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), J.R. Smith and Birdman. Of course, the squad will be be coached by the one and only Rasheed Wallace.
Lance is the ultimate chip-on-the-shoulder player. Although he had such incredible success growing up he was only drafted at number 40 in the 2010 NBA Draft. It took an injury to the then Indiana Pacers franchise player Danny Granger in 2013 for Lance to get his opportunity. He showed his ability in glimpses last season; posting a 25/10/3 line in game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-Finals to propel the Pacers to the Conference Finals. That was Lance’s coming out party. He had arrived on the big stage.
In the 2013/2014 season Lance has almost doubled his career numbers and is now averaging 14 points 7 rebounds and 5 dimes per game.
Now those numbers are good. But despite what ‘Sir Lancelot’ and his suspenders might try and sell you, I don’t think that they are All Star good.
Lance’s influence on his team however, is All Star level. As I mentioned in my The Indiana Pacers will win the Eastern Conference article, Stephenson has become the energy and effort barometer for the title-contending Pacers. The do it all wild man has posted three triple doubles this season with 3 more near misses and last week set himself a new career high with 28 points again against the Knicks. Actually, come to think of it… maybe this is why Reggie likes him so much – mutual distain for the Knicks!
The Pacers have developed a serious home court advantage at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse and this is partly due to the unpredictability and intensity of Lance Stephenson. The crowd feeds off his exciting style and so do his teammates. Every week he is growing more and more confident and we are starting to see how and why he was such a dominant high-school baller. He does not believe he is simply a role player – he believes he is a leader of this squad and a future go-to player for the franchise. His confidence is through the roof right now as highlighted by his Houdini impersonation recently against my Rockets.
Lance’s energy, hustle, dancing (that’s right, dancing) and straight refusal to lose have sky rocketed him up my list of favorite players to watch. All that plus the added small percentage chance he may choke someone out (I’m looking at you, Frank Vogel) and you have yourself one of the most interesting and entertaining players in the NBA.
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