Photo: Frank McGrath-Pacers.com
ISR Senior Writer
INDIANAPOLIS-What would we all do if we didn’t have a scape goat? I suppose that’s just a vice we’re all born with as Americans—calm down; I’m not trying to get into some political or moral debate.
The infatuation with Lance Stephenson is humorous, head scratching and mind boggling at times. Have I criticized? Yes. Have I questioned his intentions? Yes. Have I moaned or griped about his actions on the floor? Yes.
Have I ever questioned his ability as a basketball player? No. There isn’t a doubt in my mind, at 23 years old, Stephenson is blossoming in this league. There may be times in the game where it’s not needed, but what has he really done that’s so atrocious? What has he done that is so bone-headed? In almost any Pacers loss, people will find a way to pin something, at some point, on Stephenson as if he punted the ball in the stands, smacked your mother and walked off the court with both middle fingers in the air.
Ah, yes, of course, there it is. Stephenson picked LeBron James as his target—God forbid—and hurt Dwyane Wade’s feelings a time or two while he was at it.
Long before Lance was a starting SG or, I suppose, back before there was “good Lance” and “bad Lance”, back when he was just “that guy who gets junk minutes that the Pacers drafted 40th overall”, Lance was Lance—you know, the same guy he is today?
What I can’t figure out, as I suppose it comes with the territory of only being in the league four years, is how Pacers fans have forgotten someone else that wore blue and gold that did the exact, same things Stephenson does.
Gang, they made a documentary on his ability to mentally dominate the New York Knicks and their fans. We praised his antics when he would go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan.
There isn’t a single thing Stephenson did in game five Wednesday night that didn’t have Reggie Miller written all over it. Standing in the opponents huddle—Reggie. Blowing in LeBron’s face—Reggie. Staring down the Heat’s bench, Wade, or anyone not wearing blue and gold—Reggie.
When was Reggie ever running his defender ragged through screens around the baseline without pulling their jersey or shorts to catapult off of the pressure? When was Reggie ever quiet for an entire game? When was the last time Reggie hit a three in a close, heated game against the Knicks without looking over at Spike Lee or the New York Knicks bench with a mean mug and a stare?
I’ll stop you right there. It was, um, never. Miller is in the Hall of Fame and the greatest Pacer, in most eyes, ever. But this was going on the second Reggie was on the court playing one-on-one with his sister. It’s competitive nature, people. Stephenson isn’t a villain, but portraying himself as one with antics and “bafoonery”, according to Ray Allen, is what fuels this guy.
Beating LeBron James and dethroning the Miami Heat is what fuels this guy. Reggie wanted Jordan, he wanted to take the Chicago Bulls out every year they stood in his way just like he did with the Knicks. It’s competitive nature, people.
There are times it goes too far, but I recall Reggie getting into physical fights with Kobe Bryant and Jordan. Have we seen Stephenson do that yet? No, and I’m not saying Miller is bad for it either. But the constant crying and complaining from people about Stephenson is laughable.
This is the exact same song and dance we all loved and valued about Miller—the exact same song and dance. Stephenson is nowhere near the same caliber player, yet, but then again, they aren’t even the same type of player. But if they are anything one-in-the-same, they are mental masterminds.
If you so choose, go ahead and continue to make Lance your scape goat and point the finger; he’ll just continue to make you look as silly as he does on the floor. His teammates don’t have a problem with it, why should any of you? Nobody was throwing a fit when Reggie was running through his opponents’ minds night-in and night-out.
Stephenson had 12 points, five assists and five rebounds in last night’s win. A well balanced performance that contributed to a win and at least one more Pacers game doesn’t sound like a travesty to me. That sounds like a guy who knows how to get the best out of his self by getting the best of his opponents.
Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indiana Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He is recognized as accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access.