Lance Stephenson

Central Division: Rose, Bucks, Tolliver

Don’t expect Derrick Rose to make his decision this weekend, contrary to previous reports suggesting that he would. Per Chris Haynes of ESPN, Rose will have a face-to-face meeting with the Cavaliers before ultimately making a decision next week.

After a decent if unspectacular lone season in New York, Rose has narrowed down a list of possible suitors to the Lakers and Cavs. His involvement with the latter could be impacted by recent revelations that starting point guard Kyrie Irving has requested a trade out of Cleveland.

While the parties are said to be engaged in a deal for the veteran’s minimum, the guard could see his role increase substantially if Irving gets his wish and is promptly moved.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Consider Pacers swingman Lance Stephenson among those “heartbroken” that Paul George and the franchise have parted ways. The pair remain friends, Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports writes.
  • Among those interviewing for positions in Jon Horst‘s front office with the Bucks is Knicks Director of Pro Player Personnel Mark Hughes, Ian Begley of ESPN writes. Hughes has played a large role in New York’s draft decisions over the course of the past decade.
  • The decision to bring Anthony Tolliver back aboard will pay off for the Pistons in veteran leadership, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. “He’s one of the highest-character guys in the NBA. What he will do in terms of leadership is important to our team, but it’s important that he’s a guy who can go out and play,” head coach Stan Van Gundy said.
  • The Pistons‘ chief goal this offseason was to improve their three-point shooting and Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes that they’ve added a number of players that can help in that regard.

Eastern Notes: Stephenson, Sixers, Pistons

Coach Nate McMillan admits that Lance Stephenson can sometimes become a distraction on the court, as Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star passes along.

“I don’t want to take his passion from the game,” McMillan said of Stephenson. “We always have to control ourselves, that’s including myself on the sidelines. Sometimes that can become a distraction. We talk about that all the time. You can’t be drunk on emotions out there. We got to be able to get back, get to the next play. That’s for me, too.”

The combo guard knows he needs to control his emotions, adding that he doesn’t want to give the opposition anything they can use as an advantage.

“Sometimes I tend to get out of control,” Stephenson said. “I was getting frustrated with Kevin Love scoring on me. But that’s the passion I have for the game. I need to stop showing it. If somebody’s scoring on you and you show frustration, they’re going to keep going to it. I felt like I showed that. That’s what Paul [George] was talking about. Don’t show them no weakness.”

Clifton envisions McMillan shortening his bench for Game 3, which could mean more time for Stephenson in the Pacers‘ first home playoff game of 2017.

Here’s more from

  • GM Bryan Colangelo said the Sixers will address the power forward position this offseason, as Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News relays. “I think the stretch-four position is something, backing up Dario [Saric] or starting in front of Dario, whichever it is if we can find someone that’s better. We’ve got to probably address that four position,” Colangelo said.
  • The Sixers need to sign Ersan Ilyasova in free agency, Cooney contends in the same piece. The scribe pegs the power forward’s market value at $10-12MM per year, which he considers a reasonable rate for a player who fits in well next to Joel Embiid in the frontcourt.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News examines five players the Pistons could take if they stay at No. 12. The team has a 2.5% chance at climbing into the top-3, as Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors notes.

Central Notes: Pistons, Pacers, Stephenson

After a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, the Pistons will look to shore up their three-point shooting. So says head coach Stan Van Gundy, at least. Aaron McMann of MLive wrote about Detroit’s goal heading into the offseason.

We’ve got to shoot the ball better, there’s no question about that,” Van  Gundy told the media following his exit interviews with Pistons players.

Not long after, he’d go on to complain about the team’s regression throughout the season, as has become somewhat of a custom for the Pistons bench boss.

We just talked about that with our team. I think a lot of that can be internal development. [The Pistons] had virtually an entire roster that took a step back in that area this year.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Pacers Notes: George, Teague, Stephenson

Paul George will be eligible for the new Designated Veteran Player Extension if he’s named to an All-NBA team this season. By being selected to one of the three teams, George could net approximately $70MM more in an extension compared to what he’d be eligible for without being voted in. He’s aware of the pending situation and he’s hoping to be honored by the voters, as Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports relays.

“Man I hope so,” George said. “You’ve got a couple guys that so-called have been ahead of me, who have other guys on that list. I’ve been trying to lead and do it at both ends this whole season. Hopefully they take that into account, especially closing this year out, get us in the playoffs.

Here’s more from Indiana:

  • The point guard market will likely dictate whether or not the Pacers bring back Jeff Teague, Mark Montieth of NBA.com contends. The scribe believes Teague’s price tag and the other available point guard options will be huge factors in determining what the franchise does.
  • It would be surprising if Lance Stephenson isn’t on the Pacers‘ roster next season, Montieth opines in the same piece. He adds that Stephenson may be best suited to play the point guard position.
  • Stephenson is exactly what the Pacers need for their playoff series against the Cavs, Tom Withers of the Associated Press writes. “He’s different. He’s the oddball and you need that,” George said of the 26-year-old. “You need the guy that’s energetic and live, a guy who’s going to stir the pot and we work very well off of each other.”

Community Shootaround: Shooting At The Buzzer In Decided Game

Count Courtney Lee among the latest NBA players to complain about opponents putting up shots in the final seconds of a decided game. On Friday night the Grizzlies laid waste to Lee’s Knicks, culminating in rookie Wade Baldwin IV standing at half-court with the ball and a 10-point lead as the game clock neared expiration.

Just before time ran out, however, Baldwin hoisted a deep three and nailed it. The basket pushed the Grizzlies above the triple-digit mark earning Memphis fans in attendance free chicken.

Lee, unhappy to lose by 10 but considerably angrier losing by 13, went after the rookie but was thwarted by a handful of Grizzlies veterans.

For him to do that, what are you doing it for, bro?,” Lee told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Think about the people who’s doing it. They got bad luck in this league. … I don’t know what made him want to do it.”

Lee’s reaction is a common one among NBA players but should it be?

Just last week Lance Stephenson incited his own commotion by adding a layup in the final seconds of a win over the Raptors. Then, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan called the moot field goal “disrespectful to the game“. This, naturally, was followed up by Stephenson exposing an instance of DeRozan’s teammate Norman Powell doing similar to the Sixers earlier this season.

Ultimately, the NBA and fan community that drives it need to decide what is permissible in the waning seconds of a ball game and what’s just sour grapes. In response to the Stephenson/Raptors theatrics, Bobby Marks of The Vertical  tweeted “I’m so tired of these unwritten rules in basketball. If you don’t want a player to shoot at the end of the game then play some D.

On one hand, it’s easy to empathize with players like Lee or DeRozan who see the unnecessary field-goal attempts as salt in the wounds of a fresh defeat. On the other, its a thin line expecting everybody to subscribe to the same unwritten rules of a game.

Should players adopt Marks’ stance and play defense if preserving a spread is so important to them? Or should players on the winning end know not to shoot when the game is out of reach?

Factors to consider are that some veterans will go so far as to let the shot clock expire before hoisting a shot at the buzzer resulting in their being assigned a turnover. Another is the fan factor, such as that which was in effect for Baldwin IV. Reaching certain point milestones, usually 100 points, can sometimes trigger benefits for fans in attendance. Does this impact the appropriateness of a last second basket?

You tell us in the comments below!

Central Notes: Stephenson, Irving, Williams

There’s no denying that Lance Stephenson has had an impact on the Pacers since returning to their lineup for the first time since he left via free agency in 2014. Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes that the 26-year-old is now giving Indiana exactly what the team needs.

When your teammates believe in you, and the organization believes in you, the game becomes easy,” Stephenson said of his return to the Pacers.

In his first game back, the swingman nearly instigated a brawl by driving home a layup in the waning seconds of a game the Pacers already won. Days later he fanned the flames of animosity with an Instagram post calling out the Raptors for being hypocritical in their response.

More important than any contributions as an instigator is the fact that Stephenson has helped the Pacers to their first back-to-back victories since February. With that two-game win streak, the club has laid claim to the Eastern Conference’s eight-seed (for now).

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • A flare-up in his surgically repaired left knee had Kyrie Irving limping off the floor in Friday night’s loss to the Hawks, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. “It just, I don’t want it to feel sore anymore but it’s just the realization of it,” the Cavaliers guard said. “I’m doing everything possible to take care of my body, I’ve got a clear conscience with that. But also understand that sometimes it’s gonna hurt. And I gotta be able to deal with it.”
  • The Cavaliers may not be using free agent addition Deron Williams to his full potential but don’t fault them for it. Williams was the best and cheapest option available to the team when he was signed but often requires the ball in his hands to be his most dominant, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. For the most part, the Cavs would prefer to keep the ball in the hands of LeBron James or Irving.
  • A second-round pick currently helping guide the Bucks to a six-seed in the Eastern Conference is in the running for the Rookie of the Year award, but Malcolm Brogdon has asked the club to donate the money it would have spent on an extravagant campaign on his behalf to charity instead. Per Alysha Tsuji of USA Today, Brogdon, who averages 10.3 points and 4.3 assists per game, sits second on the publication’s rookie tracker.
  • Veteran Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson has struggled with asthma throughout his life and changes to how he combated the condition have led to his prolonged career, AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today writes.

Central Notes: Caldwell-Pope, Udrih, Stephenson

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s DUI arrest this week won’t factor into the bidding when he hits free agency, writes David Mayo of MLive. Caldwell-Pope can still expect offers topping $20MM a year, as he will be among the top players on the open market. And the Pistons will still be willing to match any offer sheet that their restricted free agent presents. Coach Stan Van Gundy exhibited his forgiving nature by keeping Caldwell-Pope in the starting lineup for the first game after the incident.

The Pistons are determined not to let Caldwell-Pope leave with nothing in return, Mayo notes. They might be willing to entertain thoughts of a sign-and-trade, but the fourth-year guard would have to agree to any deal and it would have to happen before he has an offer sheet.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Veteran Pistons guard Beno Udrih wants to coach when his playing days are finished, relays Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Udrih, 34, was claimed off waivers at the start of the season because of Reggie Jackson‘s knee problems. Almost immediately, he was sharing pointers with newly appointed starter Ish Smith“He’s a very, very smart basketball guy and makes some very, very good points,” Van Gundy said of Udrih. “It’s always nice to have those guys around.”
  • Pacers players stayed after practice Saturday to welcome Lance Stephenson back to the team, according to Nate Taylor of The Indianapolis Star. Stephenson signed a three-year deal Thursday and will play his first game in three years in an Indiana uniform today against Cleveland. “I still think I’m dreaming right now,” Stephenson said. “I keep waiting to wake up and say, ‘Ah, it was just a dream.’ But that hasn’t happened yet and I’m happy I’m here. I just want to get back on the right path and get back to where I used to be.”
  • The return of Khris Middleton from a hamstring injury has sparked the Bucks‘ playoff push, notes Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. Milwaukee is 17-7 since February 8th in games that Middleton has played and currently holds the fifth spot in the East.

Reactions To Lance Stephenson Signing

Lance Stephenson‘s tumultuous season reached its apex Wednesday, when “Born Ready” inked a three-year, $12 million deal with the Pacers. Stephenson, who has battled injuries throughout 2016/17, had been waived by the Pelicans and played through two 10-day contracts with the Timberwolves. As could be expected, Stephenson’s multi-year deal sparked discussion throughout the league.

The 26-year-old Stephenson held court with the press following his return to Indiana, discussing his unusual path back to the team that drafted him.

“I was in New York rehabbing,” Stephenson said (Associated Press link). “I was like: ‘Man, I keep getting hurt. I guess I’ll worry about next year.’ When I got the call, I said: ‘Are you kidding? The Indiana Pacers? I’m going home.’” Later in the discussion, Stephenson lauded Pacers president Larry Bird (“probably the only guy who believed in my game”), and vowed to bring a “tough edge” on defense.

Paul George was thrilled to have Stephenson back with the Pacers, talking up Lance’s value as a teammate.

“We had special memories,” George told Nate Taylor of IndyStar.com. “We’ve definitely got a bond on that court. Hopefully we pick up where we left off. He’s excited. He’s always considered Indiana home, so he’s very excited to play with me and us again. This is where he made his name and made his mark. He’s got that in the back of his mind. He definitely thinks he can help this team.”

Mark Bartelstein, one of Stephenson’s two agents, said Lance’s relationship and history with Bird was crucial to the deal’s completion.

“Larry and Kevin are genuine guys and they believe in relationships,” Bartelstein told IndyStar.com. “I think Larry, being a player in this league, knew what Lance was looking for at that time and I think there was always respect. When Larry believes in you, he’s always going to be a fan and he doesn’t hold grudges.”

Andrew Perna of RealGM was more critical of the signing, wondering if Lance is the same player was three years ago.

“There is, however, a fair amount of risk as Stephenson begins his second term in Indiana,” Perna writes. “Groin, ankle and foot injuries have robbed him of the ability to stick somewhere over the past two years. If he’s unable to stay healthy, the Pacers won’t have a chance to rekindle some of the magic we saw in 2013-14…the Pacers are hoping Lance Stephenson will help them play better right now and look better on paper in a few months.”

Pacers Sign Lance Stephenson

MARCH 30, 2:31pm: The Pacers have officially signed Stephenson, the team announced today in a press release.Lance Stephenson vertical

“We’re very happy to have Lance back as part of our team,” Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird said in a statement. “We always knew he wanted to come back here, and we feel now is the right time, not only for the rest of this season, but moving forward. We look forward to having a long relationship with him, because we know what he can bring to our franchise, both on and off the court.”

MARCH 29, 11:54am: The Pacers and Stephenson are in agreement on a three-year, $12MM deal, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.com (via Twitter). According to Haynes, the first two years are guaranteed, while the third is a team option. Adam Zagoria was the first to report the agreement between the two sides, as noted below.

11:35am: The Pacers are working on a deal to bring Lance Stephenson back to Indiana, league sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog indicates that the two sides have already finalized a three-year deal with a player option in year three, though the team has yet to confirm anything.

The Pacers opened up a spot on their roster today when they waived veteran guard Rodney Stuckey. With Al Jefferson and Glenn Robinson III also on the shelf, Indiana has some holes in its rotation, opening the door for a player like Stephenson to return to the club. While the coaching staff isn’t the same one that worked with Stephenson during his first stint with the Pacers, the front office is familiar with him.

Stephenson, 26, enjoyed a breakout season for the Pacers in 2013/14, averaging 13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 4.6 APG. However, he has bounced around the league since then and hasn’t delivered on the promise he showed during his final year in Indiana.

After playing for the Hornets, Clippers, and Grizzlies in previous years, Stephenson started this season with the Pelicans, but was waived after suffering a groin injury. The veteran swingman later caught on with the Timberwolves on a pair of 10-day deals, though his stint in Minnesota was derailed by injuries as well. As of mid-March, the Wolves were willing to let him go as he continued to deal with an ankle issue.

Assuming the Pacers and Stephenson do finalize a multiyear deal, the Pacers have the flexibility to offer more than two years and more than the minimum salary, since they remain under the cap. As our Salary Cap Snapshot shows, Indiana has more than $4MM in cap room available. Typically, veteran free agents who sign late in the season prefer one-year contracts so that they can return to the open market in the summer, but that extra cap space gives the Pacers the flexibility to make a multiyear deal worth Stephenson’s while.

Although Stephenson signed with the Wolves after March 1, he’ll retain his playoff eligibility for Indiana, since his deal with Minnesota was a 10-day pact.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Will The Heat Add To Their Roster?

In the latest edition of his mailbag, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel broached the subject of Miami adding depth to their shaky roster. As one of Winderman’s readers pointed out, the Heat are within striking distance of a playoff spot, but are missing several players due to injury. What’s more, they’ve committed a roster spot to Udonis Haslem– a great clubhouse presence who isn’t an in-game contributor at this point in his career. In response, Winderman wrote:

“The Heat, for at least another week, not only won’t be able to dress the allowable 13 players, but like Sunday, will only be able to dress 11. Yes, I appreciate the ‘we have enough’ mentality that coaches such as Erik Spoelstra stress. But having enough does not mean having the maximum possible resources in a playoff race that will make every game count. Whether it is signing Carlos Boozer back from China or adding a defensive wing, you raise a legitimate point. This team is hemorrhaging roster spots, and if the mantra is to be all-hands-on-deck, then playing with a full deck would be the best place to start.”

Now tied with Detroit for the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference, the Heat enter a vital stretch of their season without Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, or Josh McRoberts. While the team could pursue Lance Stephenson, whose second 10-day contract in Minnesota recently expired, he won’t be playoff eligible. Aside from reaching out to Boozer, Winderman lists Okaro White– who is “hardly getting off the bench lately”- as a potential source of production.

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