Bringing in a dynamic personality late in a season can work for a team in need of a boost, but it can also fail miserably with egos being threatened and teammates not responding well.
So far, Lance Stephenson's addition to the Pacers has worked better than anyone could expect. Instead of making Lance ease his way into the locker room culture, the Pacers have followed Paul George's lead and let all of the emotion and excitement he plays the game with, permeate what was simply a boring group stuck in a rut and fading out of the playoffs.
The 2013-14 Pacers were a much better team, but also fading down the stretch. Larry Bird tried to shake things up by dealing for Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum with hopes it would re-focus his key players on raising their game and beating back the new competition for playing time.
But things got worse before they finally improved in the playoffs. Lance himself, didn't react well to Turner's presence in the locker room and also being in play for his minutes. Bynum's presence had Hibbert calling his agent upset with the threat to his role.
So while the change didn't work to improve that team, it did work in that it exposed the problems. You want guys who aren't threatened but instead want to compete and maintain their role.
With Lance returning this late in the season, the risk was real. The emotionless vets could have just raise their eyebrows at Lance's hyped up interactions on the court and thought, whatever. Instead they have fully embraced Lance's presence and raised their level of intensity and emotion on the court.
Myles Turner has been a guy who enjoys getting hyped on the court, but has taken his cue from the vets, thus being far more muted as the season has gone by. But now, he has a guy who made it fun to get hyped again and so after knocking down a fourth quarter three-pointer, Turner bounced back down the court, skipping with arms raised.
Jeff Teague dropped the stoic exterior and after forcing a timeout with a nice runner, elephant stomping his way out of the scrum of players, yelling and flexing.
Finally, when PG hit the final three, not long after Lance was in the corner waving his arms up and down to get the crowd going, all five Pacers on the floor were jumping around, bouncing off each other and imploring the crowd to join.
Then after the game, they all gave Lance the credit for altering the mindset. Thad Young almost sounded grateful that someone broke the seal on having fun among the grop.
Hopefully, this isn't like a sugar rush with an inevitable crash waiting to happen. It is hard to believe the impact and change in the locker room. Veteran NBA observers like Mark Montieth saying he hasn't seen anything like the sudden change in personality this team has taken, helps explain how rare this situation is.
So enjoy the ride and let's hope it lasts into the post-season.
The full Lance effect and comments from Paul George following the win were part of the latest episode of Locked on Pacers. Check it out!