The Born Ready Ultimatum:
Where will Lance Stephenson land?
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.
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.
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.
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.