With Kelan Martin joining Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Chris Duarte, and Isaiah Jackson in health and safety protocols, Lance Stephenson is heading back to where his career started, signing a 10-day hardship deal with the Indiana Pacers, according to reports from both The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
Stephenson was a second-round pick for the Pacers back in 2010 and spent four-straight seasons in Indiana, including two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, before ultimately finding his way back to the Hoosier state in 2017 as a late-season spark after struggling to adjust to a new team in Charlotte and playing for five organizations in a three-year stretch.
Inked to a three-year deal, Stephenson stayed on for 2017-18, as the Pacers transitioned from the Paul George-era to obliterating expectations during Victor Oladipo’s first season, but struggles with efficiency and meshing alongside Cory Joseph, who provided more utility as a point of attack defender, ultimately resulted in the Pacers declining the veteran guard’s third-year team option in order to maximize cap space.
Per reports, after Brogdon went down with a left hip injury in March of 2020 with Jeremy Lamb already out with a torn ACL, Indiana was in “strong talks” to bring Lance back yet again, but the league stoppage and release issues with his contract in China ended up derailing those plans. Coincidentally, if the prodigal point wing can still make a pocket pass and demonstrate any semblance of chemistry with Domantas Sabonis, as he once did, his general fit with the team arguably makes more sense now than what might have been the case then. After all, given that T.J. McConnell is sidelined indefinitely following wrist surgery, more opportunity exists to handle off the bench, especially if newcomer Keifer Sykes continues to look somewhat overwhelmed by the moment.
In that regard, while Stephenson only averaged 1.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 11.7 minutes per game during his 10-day deal with Atlanta, he has more size for position and would be hard pressed to be a downgrade over that which the Pacers have been attempting to make do, barring the possibility that he’s lost a step or too often gives into Lance being Lance.
Goga stole Lance's lunch money. pic.twitter.com/h5TSqSlCq4— Caitlin Cooper (@C2_Cooper) December 16, 2021
To that point, however, these possessions exist. The bar for playmaking, particularly when it comes to executing high-low action against fronting, is low.
If nothing else, with the Pacers, who currently rank 29th in attendance with a 14-22 record, facing a brutal schedule to start the month, Lance’s re-re-return for the next 10 days at least gives fans something to latch onto between now and the trade deadline.