You never hear anyone say, "Wow, Lance Stephenson had a quiet 20 points tonight."
Nothing Stephenson does on the court is quiet. That's why he's so fun to watch and also why he's garnered plenty of support for a reserve NBA All-Star nod. When the Pacers are rolling, especially at home, Lance has his fingerprints all over the game. He puts up numbers, he always provides energy and he often drives opponents nuts.
What's not to like?
As far as his chances to make the All-Star team, Stephenson remains on the bubble as a potential East reserve who will need the votes of opposing coaches to earn the honor when the remaining All-Stars are revealed next week.
So what will the coaches consider when they determine Stephenson's All-Star fate. The loud numbers witnessed in the context of a big win by the Pacers aren't always as impressive when left to review on a stat sheet and compared to other deserving candidates. Here is a strong case made on Lance's behalf by Jon Washburn, while Zach Lowe delivers a reasonable argument for leaving Stephenson off the team.
So the numbers and the prism through which coaches view the numbers will be a factor, but that part about Lance driving opponents nuts may also play a strong role in the voting. We're talking about humans and if a coach doesn't appreciate the way Lance celebrates a play or tries to get under the skin of one of his players, he may cast his vote elsewhere. Some of his players may beg him to do so, as well.
Could "Lance being Lance" end up costing Lance an All-Star spot? During a recent Pacers Weekly interview, Mark Boyle asked Frank Vogel about Stephenson's All-Star chances and if Born Ready's perception among fellow coaches may hamper his chances to be selected as a reserve.
"That remains to be seen," Vogel said after joking about the homemade video. "I think there's a definite respect level for his game. His image, I'm not sure of. He's an edgy competitor, he gets under your skin. He's the kind of guy you hate on an opposing team. So I don't know how that will favor how he's voted on in terms of the All-Star selection. But I know it favors our basketball team in terms of winning games."
"I think coaches consider everything," Rivers said. "Being an All-Star is elite in every way, not just basketball, I think. They'll consider everything, that's what they should do."
When pushed to answer if that mindset could hurt Lance's All-Star chances, Doc wouldn't go that far.
"I don't think so. I think they're (Pacers) wins speak for themselves. But honestly, I don't think about the All-Star game. It's one day."
It was nice to hear the TNT crew pump up Stephenson's All-Star credentials on Thursday but they aren't voting and those on the wrong side of Lance's theatrics will have to look past any frustrations he may have caused to send him to New Orleans. With other comparable options, that might be a tough vote to cast for some coaches.
I can only hope, if Lance is left off the All-Star team that it doesn't encourage him to change. As Vogel said, what Stephenson does on the court helps fuel winning for the Pacers and a snub just might add more fuel to Lance's internal fire. That would be something to see.
On a slight tangent with respect to Lance making or not making the All-Star game, ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton broke down (insider) the impact an All-Star invite could have on Stephenson's free agent salary demands next summer, which is of obvious import to the Pacers.
KP ran the numbers, which would make my head spin, and reveals a significant gap in Stephenson's potential salary demands based on whether he makes the All-Star team or not. Here's how he broke it down.
Using the last five years' worth of free agency, I attempted to predict first-year salary (adjusted for increases or decreases in future years) as a function of their stats the previous season. Seven factors ended up having a statistically significant relationship with salary: my wins above replacement metric, minutes per game, points per game, height (a positive), age (a negative), whether the player was a restricted free agent (surprisingly, restricted free agents made more than expected based on their stats) and whether the player was an All-Star the previous season. Together, they explain more than 70 percent of the variation in player salaries.
Because these factors match up better with the square root of salary -- that is, salary grows exponentially with improvement in these factors more than it does on a consistent, linear basis -- it's difficult to put an exact dollar value on an All-Star appearance. But when Stephenson's current stats are plugged in (projected to a full season), the model suggests his value would be about $8 million on the open market. If he makes the All-Star team, however, that figure jumps all the way to $12.4 million.
So, in the the end all of the entertaining theatrics Lance adds to the game may keep him off the All-Star game but on the bright side, could help keep him helping the Pacers win games for a few more years. How do you think opposing coaches will view Lance's All-Star credentials? Which coaches are most likely to vote for or against Lance?