About a month ago, Larry Bird spoke with Mark Montieth about a wide array of topics on 1070 The Fan, but one comment stuck in my mind last night when I heard the discouraging news about Lance Stephenson's arrest yesterday.
The conversation was pretty light as they rambled through all of the topics of the day concerning the Pacers and the NBA. Bird was quick to laugh and throw in his own quips. But at one point, his tone took a decidedly serious turn and that was when Montieth started treading into Lance Stephenson's past. In discussing the draft picks and great play of Stephenson in the summer league, Montieth wanted Bird's thoughts on the risk of taking Stephenson.
Montieth: You've talked about the due diligence you put in to checking into his (Stephenson's) background, because he had been in a couple of issues back home, not in college, but back home...(Bird interrupts)
Bird: In one, Mark.
The transcript doesn't do the comment justice. Bird's tone made it clear he wasn't giving Montieth an inch of latitude on the topic. To Montieth's credit, he acknowledged it was just one incident but pressed on with the question, which Bird answered.
Montieth: In one, exactly, but my question is: Did you still hesitate to pull the trigger on him just because of all you've been through with the criticism the franchise has received with the off-court issues.
Bird: Well, he 16 years old and even though he was wrong he was very young. Obviously, we went out and did everything we possibly could do to find out as much as we could about him and everything turned up pretty positive last couple of years. So, is it a chance? It's a chance on any of these young men. You don't know what they're going to do from day to day, but hopefully we can get him in the right environment along with the other draftees and hopefully he can improve and make good things happen.
From all accounts, while Stephenson was in town this summer in that positive environment there was nothing but good news to report. Assuming Stephenson can make his way through this latest incident AND the team stands by him, the team and those close to Stephenson who care about him maturing into a productive man, let alone a productive basketball player, are going to have to monitor the environment he's around until he proves he can handle his business.
But all of the help and guidance in the world won't change Stephenson for the better until he changes things for himself. Hopefully he can figure it out to prevent ruining a promising career before it starts.