NBA Free Agency 2014: Pacers need to move quick to sign Lance Stephenson or move on

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With little resources to work with this summer, the Pacers will need to move on quickly to target other players if they don't strike a deal with Lance Stephenson.

The Pacers are doing their best to mix in an emotional element to the business decision Lance Stephenson has to make about his next NBA contract. There are a lot of valuable reasons for Stephenson to remain with the Pacers but the amount of dollars on the final contract wouldn't be the only reason.

The Pacers have a limit they can spend on Stephenson this year which could allow an escalating contract worth around $9 million per year over the lifetime of the deal (starting around $7-8 mil). But how many years and how much money -- bottom line questions in any negotiation -- won't favor the Pacers if another team jumps into the bidding.

So in lieu of actual dollar bills, the Pacers are showing Stephenson some love. It started before last season, when Larry Bird was announcing the max deal for Paul George and singled out Lance in the back of the room, telling him he and his dad would be on that stage next. Dad and mom Stephenson love living in Indiana and the life they have rolling with their youngest son, Lantz. Lance, Sr. has also always loved Larry Bird the player and no doubt appreciates the Legend even more for how he's stood by his son as a pro.

When the calendar turned to July 1 at midnight, Candace Buckner reports that the Pacers started their negotiations with Lance by working on the emotional angle once again.

>>At 12:01 a.m. this morning, Lance Stephenson and company were with the Indiana Pacers' team brass at a private party, watching a movie in Stephenson's honor.

>>The movie was a secret to Stephenson.

>>Parts of the movie featured a few words from Larry Bird, Pacers president of basketball operations, and coach Frank Vogel.

>>Sources say things got "emotional" for Stephenson's loved ones at certain parts, especially when the 'Born Ready' life story began reflecting on his journey to climb out of Coney Island.

Now the Pacers will focus their efforts on trying to strike a fair deal with Stephenson and by fair, I mean a deal that slides Stephenson in under the team's salary cap tax threshold. That will be part of the deal with Stephenson and leave him with a choice to either chase as much money as possible or remain in a familiar situation with a strong role on quality team which still has room to grow.

Money rarely fails to win that battle, so the Pacers need to find out quickly whether or not Stephenson will agree to their terms. If not, time for a tearful good-bye and then on to Plan B.

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