While watching/cringing through the Indiana Pacers getting throttled in Game 6 last night, I was faced with a complicated thought. It’s one that’s reared its head multiple times throughout Indiana’s nonsensical, frustrating run to the Eastern Conference Finals, but in this rivalry matchup with the Miami Heat, this story line moved to the forefront.
It wasn’t about Paul George and whether or not he’s a superstar. It wasn’t about Roy Hibbert and whether or not his disappearing act would cost coach Frank Vogel his job. It wasn’t even about Mark Jackson‘s inability to say anything other than “Hand down, man down” and “Mama, there goes that man,” let alone be able to pronounce Hibbert’s name correctly. (Seriously though, it was some combination of “Hibbert” and “ribbet,” and it was hilarious every single time.)
No, the thing that confused me the most was that Lance Stephenson was the reason these Pacers were underachieving so badly and yet, at the same time, they would have had zero chance without him. And so there I sat, more terribly vexed than Commodus from Gladiator, trying to make sense of it all.
How can a player both be the reason for a team being a massive disappointment AND the driving force behind their never-back-down mentality? How could he be their most important offensive player and also be the harbinger of doom that awakened a sleeping LeBron James? And more importantly, how could the antics of one man make a team so insufferable to watch that it turned the national audience against the team that was trying to unseat the Miami Heat, who most people either love or loathe?
Here is a comprehensive answer to the Lance Stephenson debate that no one’s wanted to tackle.