The Born Ready Ul­ti­ma­tum:

Where will Lance Stephen­son land?

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

Ini­tially I planned on writ­ing a pre­view of what the NBA Fi­nals would look like for the 1980’s Bos­ton Celtics of our gen­er­a­tion — or as you know them the Mi­ami Heat — but that nar­ra­tive has been writ­ten or will be by plenty of other people.

I fig­ured I’d take a dif­fer­ent route, the Lance Stephen­son route, and by that I don’t mean blow­ing in any­one’s ear. I mean, where does Lance go from here?

From record­ing a league-leading five triple dou­bles dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son to al­most be­com­ing an all-star. Fast for­ward to the Pac­ers strug­gling af­ter the break, cries of self­ish­ness on the team — with mul­ti­ple me­dia out­lets reporting it was Stephen­son be­ing self­ish — and we land at Stephen­son subtly hit­ting Lebron in the face only to em­brace him with a bro hug af­ter los­ing badly to the King.

Then af­ter the game, Pac­ers’ star Paul Ge­orge was asked about Lance Stephen­son com­ing back next sea­son.

“I mean, I don’t know,” Ge­orge said in an in­ter­view posted on si. com. “That’s for [ Pac­ers pres­i­dent] Larry [Bird], [GM] Kevin [Pritchard], for them to de­cide.”

“It would be great for us to con­tinue our jour­ney to­gether. He’s played a huge year this whole sea­son and in this post­sea­son. He’s def­i­nitely put pres­sure on us to make de­ci­sions go­ing for­ward with Lance.”

Not ex­actly a ring­ing en­dorse­ment for Stephen­son. Ge­orge’s hes­i­tancy to de­clare his want for Stephen­son’s re­turn gives some credit to those ru­mors of a lock- er room feud. Ru­mors that said Stephen­son has been an is­sue since he didn’t make the All­Star Team. Me­dia out­lets have been reporting that he has be­come more self­ish since then and is clash­ing with his cur­rent team­mates.

Stephen­son, who will be a free agent this sum­mer, has been play­ing for a con­tract that will likely pay him be­tween $8 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion, or maybe more if he’s lucky. But is the Brook­lyn na­tive worth the mar­ket price? I say yes.

De­spite his many detri­ments and pe­cu­liar in- game tac­tics, Stephen­son is a bur­geon­ing All- Star. “Born Ready” is only 23 years old and he’s com­ing off his best sea­son, where he av­er­aged 13.8 points per game, 7.2 re­bounds and 4.6 as­sists. Those are al­most Ra­jon Rondo num­bers.

Cou­ple those num­bers with his abil­ity to play sound de­fense and the fear­less in­ten­sity he brings to the game and you’ve got a pretty good sec­ond or third op­tion guy on your team.

I don’t think you can ques­tion his abil­i­ties. You can how­ever, ques­tion his abil­ity to gel with a locker room and his abil­ity not to do any­thing so pro­foundly in­sane on the court that would re­sult in his ejec­tion and af­fect the fi­nal out­come of a game.

It’s not a mat­ter of po­ten­tial great­ness or po­ten­tial com­bus­tion. It’s a mat­ter of what’s the right fit. There are a few teams that would make a great fit for Stephen­son if Larry Bird de­cides not to re­sign him.

At­lanta Hawks

The Hawks make the most sense here. They’re in need of a start­ing shoot­ing guard, see­ing as how Louis Wil­liams didn’t re­turn to form from his ACL tear. The vet­er­ans Paul Mil­sap and Al Hor­ford can reign Stephen­son in when he treks too far into the deep end of the “Born Ready” ocean. Teague and Stephen­son make an ath­letic front­court that can get to the bas­ket and cre­ate for oth­ers. Spac­ing might be an is­sue but it shouldn’t be Detroit Pis­tons bad, es­pe­cially with Korver. Stephen­son isn’t a great shooter, but he can knock it down. The Hawks spent $ 19 mil­lion over two years for Mil­sap, they should give Stephen­son a sim­i­lar con­tract, but maybe longer since he’s not even 25.

Mem­phis Griz­zlies

The main thing Stephen­son needs, as Larenz Tate said in Biker Boyz is some ‘ac­tright.’ En­ter Zach Ran­dolph. Z-bo is that guy who will smack some sense into a guy if need be, but he’s also a guy that will back you up on the court if you get in some trou­ble, much like what Haslem was do­ing Fri­day night for Lebron. Stephen­son would add to Mem­phis’ team de­fense and he could cre­ate with Con­ley off the floor. They could let Tony Allen and/ or Tayshaun Prince walk and in comes a bet­ter ver­sion of both of them.

Mi­ami Heat

Sur­prised? You shouldn’t be, af­ter all Stephen­son caused the Heat more prob­lems than Paul Ge­orge did, ex­cept for that in­cred­i­ble game five fourth quar­ter. Their vet­eran lead­er­ship would keep Stephen­son grounded and steer him in the right di­rec­tion. You may be ask­ing how and why? Ray Allen and Shane Bat­tier are prob­a­bly done af­ter this sea­son. You also have to fac­tor in the fact that Mi­ami might not be able to re­sign all three of the Big 3. If any­one leaves I fig­ure it’ll more than likely be Chris Bosh. Him leav­ing would free up some cap space to sign Stephen­son, and if you don’t think this would be a good fit just look at what the Lak­ers did when they signed the artist for­merly known as Ron Artest.

SHA­KEEM HOL­LOWAY

SPORTS EDI­TOR

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