Lance Stephenson confounded the basketball masses this playoff series. From blowing in ears, to his early reported death on the floor and even being dragged across the the floor back into the game by Roy Hibbert. Lance was Just being Lance, but what motivates Stephenson may take an entire room full of chimps, churning through the DSM IV with Shakespearian fury.
Stephenson hasn’t been the first NBA Headcase and he won’t ever be the last, but compared to some of the other “Crazy Greats” have done, Lance’s maneuvers into the absurd seem to hold him back rather than promote him.
Dennis Rodman was raised in the “Bad Boy” system of Detroit and then seemed to chug a bunch of Mountain Dew and brought the Xtreme to Chicago. Half rebounding machine and half wrestling star, Rodman was volatile, weird and garish. His dyed hair was off the charts for the usually conservative Jordan Bulls, but he was a force inside and Jordan knew his value in intimidation on the boards was going to swing the Bulls into a second era of championships.
Rasheed Wallace was once a focal point of the infamous “Jailblazers,” but with a championship term on the Larry Brown Detroit Pistons, his turn as stoic malcontent into one of the most charming personalities that the NBA had seen in years. Rasheed’s talent was limited, but he could still space a floor with his shooting and could still defend straight up or in the post with the best of them. And as the years have gone by, we’ve seen Sheed validated by history: his infamous event waiting for referee Tim Donaghy was turned into a Nostradamus-like premonition when it was revealed Donaghy was involved in fixing games.
So where does that leave us with Lance? Statistically speaking this was a great year for Stephenson, averaging 13.8 PPG and 7.2 RPG including a league-leading five triple-doubles in one season. But his playoff performance was marred by 50 Shades of Weirdness. His visage on more memes than highlights and rumors floating that he priced himself down in Free Agency this off-season. Couple that with a mid-season appearance of Evan Turner, who showed up in essentially the same role as Stephenson and lead to some awkward on-court body language and reports of an on-court altercation between the two during practice.
In Lance’s defense, he might have been crazy from heat in Indiana. Pacers organization looked to be the most dysfunctional No. 1 seed ever, having their star center go four games without a point, having Paul George play very inconsistent and Stephenson on a bench unit that could have been Lance and four folding chairs out there at times.
So what was the anomaly? The statistics or the behavior? Was Lance so knee deep in toxicity that he became the Clown Prince of Trolls? Or is there now always a 50-50 chance Stephenson will get you a triple-double or have to be dragged around on the floor? Could he morph into the NBA’s version of Golddust? Or will he fade into jobber territory? Either way, Lance has become a popcorn grabber. Something will happen when he’s on the court and I don’t even think Lance himself knows what it is.