One of the highlights from the Indiana Pacers' win over the Atlanta Hawks last night was the play of Lance Stephenson. While he pushed things to the edge a few times, he was still able to make plays for himself or others and considering he can create his own shot, when he makes more than he misses he can be quite valuable.
But there's another edge Stephenson seems to play with that has nothing to do with being out of control with the ball. At one point in the second half, the Pacers had the all-agitator team on the floor with Stephenson, Dahntay Jones, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster, four guys that can drive opponents nuts in their own unique way.
Stephenson is a physical guard and doesn't mind engaging in some chippy play which showed up a couple of times last night as he played through the whistle, to borrow a football term. Jannero Pargo took exception to Stephenson's flailing after drawing a foul and heard something from Lance that set him off.
Later with the game in hand, Atlanta beat writer Michael Cunningham reports that Stephenson was making his presence known with the Hawks bench.
Lance Stephenson, noted head case from his days back at Cincinnati, seemed to be really proud of his career-high 12 points. He kept flexing at Atlanta's bench in garbage time. Hawks players didn't like it, though a couple guys just laughed at him.
This is the perception of Stephenson around the league and he will have to mature much more to shake that reputation. I found it interesting on Tuesday when Roy Hibbert was asked about Stephenson's progress on the Query & Schultz show, he didn't sugar coat his status and made a point to say that Lance still needed to develop a professional maturity to go along with his skill.
I also noticed in his post-game comments, Frank Vogel was quick to minimize the hype for Stephenson's game, pointing out the issues of playing out of control at times even though it didn't cost the team. Considering Vogel is usually quick with over-the-top praise for any of his players, there is obviously no need for the coach to bolster Stephenson's confidence.
All of this isn't to say, Stephenson isn't serious about his game. He's put in the work and even seeked out shooting legend and Pacers consultant, Billy Keller for some extra work before last night's game. After the game, Stephenson credited Keller with helping him adjust his release and arc on the shot which obviously worked. Also, I love the little chippiness that guys like Foster and Jones bring which can take opponents out of their game. It is a fine line to straddle sometimes and takes a measure of control not to go too far.
Stephenson has the ability to provide such a dynamic boost off the bench for this team if he can harness his game and find some level of consistency. I just hope he is able to handle that role like a pro.
Check out the links after the jump.
- Box score: Pacers 96, Hawks 84
- PACERS: Rewind: Pacers vs. Hawks 120111
- That's more like it - Pacers drop Hawks, 96-84 | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com
- Pacers notebook: Hibbert's early exam | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com
- Short-handed Hawks fade to loss at Indiana | ajc.com
- Atlanta Hawks: Pacers 96, Hawks 84 | Atlanta Hawks
- Granger leads Pacers past Hawks - NBA - AP
- Post-Game Grades: Indy Smacks ATL in the Jaw | Eight Points, Nine Seconds
- NBA Scores And More: Clips Tip Heat In OT, Lakers Do The Same To Jazz, Blazers Fall At Home - SBNation.com