Despite a wave of criticism about Lance Stephenson’s antics during the Eastern Conference Finals, his agent told SNY.tv there will be “no shortage” of suitors for Stephenson this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
“He wants to make the commitment to himself and to his club — whatever club that is — to be the best person and teammate he can possibly be,” Alberto Ebanks, Stephenson’s agent, told SNY.tv by phone Saturday morning. “He is a work in progress.”
After making headlines in a Game 5 Pacers’ win by blowing into LeBron James’s ear, Stephenson drew James’s ire in Game 6 by touching James on the face, causing an angry James to verbally chastise Stephenson.
Stephenson later fouled Miami guard Norris Cole by smacking him in the face as Cole went for a loose ball.
After the game, James and Stephenson exchanged a hug as the Heat moved on to their fourth straight NBA Finals, eliminating Stephenson and the Pacers for the third straight season.
“The season has ended prematurely for the Pacers and Lance,” Ebanks said. “When all is said and done, Lance Stephenson will be evaluated on his complete body of work. It will then be crystal clear that he possesses a unique skill set and a rare ability to impact the game on both ends of the court. Lance plans to continue to work hard this summer in an effort to improve all facets of himself and his game. He looks forward to what the future holds.”
The former Brooklyn Lincoln star, who scored 11 points in the loss, told the Indianapolis Start after the game he wants to return to the Pacers.
“I definitely want to be back,” Stephenson said. “Right now, I’m not really focused on that. I’m just showing love for my guys and showing how hard we worked and cherishing this moment.”
His teammate, Pacers star Paul George, wavered when asked if Indiana should bring Stephenson back.
“I mean, I don’t know,” George told reporters. “That’s for [Pacers president] Larry [Bird], [GM] Kevin [Pritchard], for them to decide.”
While much has been made of his postseason antics, Stephenson had his best year this season, leading the NBA with five triple-doubles and averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists, putting him in the mix for the All-Star Game.
Twitter was rampant with speculation during and after Game 6 that Stephenson may have cost himself millions of dollars with his antics, but one former NBA GM told SNY.tv that Stephenson will still “get paid.”
“He is going to get paid but I think his options will be limited because of how much maintenance he brings to a franchise,” the executive said.
The executive said he thought Stephenson was “more than a mid-level [player] but not a $10-million player.” He added that he’s “probably a $5-$8 million average player.”
Ebanks declined to get into specifics on Stephenson’s potential contract, but as Josh Newman detailed in this piece the Pacers own Stephenson’s Bird Rights and can sign him to any contract, technically even a max contract.
Now it will be up to the Pacers and Stephenson to see how it all unfolds.