If they think Lance Stephenson is the answer, the Pacers simply aren’t asking the right questions.
The veteran guard is going back to Indiana, back to where his career started (word to the late, great Michael Jackson) after inking a three-year contract worth $12 million, according to ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
The deal to acquire the 6-5, 230-pound guard, who played his first four seasons in Indianapolis, comes the morning after Pacers superstar Paul George harshly criticized his teammates. George, a four-time all-star and free agent following next season, sounded fed up after scoring 37 in a 115-114 loss to the Timberwolves.
“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride. This locker room is just not pissed off enough,” George said. “We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs. That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit, and we’ve got to own up, man up.”
As heartwarming as the homecoming might be, signing Stephenson won’t come close to curing what ails the Pacers in the short or long term. Indiana is struggling to hold onto a playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. At 37-37, they’re currently seventh in the standings, a game ahead of the No. 8 Heat and two games in front of the No. 9 Bulls. They haven’t put together consecutive wins since early February and are set to face teams in the playoff hunt in six of their final eight regular season contests, including a three-game stretch next week during which they’ll take on 2016 conference finalists Cleveland and Toronto in consecutive games.
Stephenson, who has seen action in 12 games in 2016-17, appearing in a half-dozen contests apiece for the Pelicans and Timberwolves, gives an Indiana team which has given up 100 or more points in five of its last six while going 2-4 during the span another sizable, athletic defender who isn’t afraid to get into ballhandlers on the perimeter. It remains to be seen how much playing time he’ll command on a squad that includes not only George (22.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.2 apg) but serviceable wings Thaddeus Young and C.J. Miles, both of whom are averaging double-digits in scoring, to give a late-season boost to the league’s 19th-ranked offense. Stephenson’s 9.0 player efficiency rating this season will be the lowest on the Pacers’ roster.