In his first home game in three years as a member of the Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson received a noticeably warm welcome Tuesday from the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The veteran swingman then offered a reminder of why he tends to be less popular among opposing teams and fan bases, sparking a near-brawl at the end of a 109-90 win over the Raptors.
In the waning moments and with the Pacers holding a very comfortable lead, Stephenson got the ball and, instead of simply letting the clock run out, dribbled toward Toronto’s basket and hit an unopposed layup with three seconds left. Stephenson then encountered some opposition, in the form of several Raptors who did not take kindly to his unnecessary score.
Yup Lance Stephenson is back,,,doing dumb stuff, making people mad pic.twitter.com/gi78JvoX2Y
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 5, 2017
Pacers' Lance Stephenson triggers unwritten rules beef w/ Raptors by making stat-padding lay-up at the end of a decided game (all angles) pic.twitter.com/VHVwHQ8muU
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 5, 2017
The Lance Stephenson Experience Is Fully Back In Indiana.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) April 5, 2017
Crowd at Bankers Life: "LANCE, LANCE, LANCE, LANCE …"
— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelStar) April 5, 2017
Stephenson earned a technical foul for his role in the skirmish, as did Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and P.J. Tucker. Afterward, according to the Indianapolis Star’s Gregg Doyel, Stephenson evinced a sheepish demeanor in saying, “I just want to say sorry to the Raptors. I didn’t mean no harm.”
Raptors’ P.J. Tucker went off on Lance’s late layup: “Tasteless. Classless. There’s nowhere in the league for that."
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) April 5, 2017
Selected by the Pacers with the 40th pick in the 2010 draft, Stephenson spent his first four seasons with Indiana, improving every year and peaking with a 2013-14 campaign in which he averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists while leading the NBA with five triple-doubles (believe it or not, Russell Westbrook only had two).
He then turned down a five-year contract from the Pacers to sign a three-year deal, at a similar annual value, with the Hornets, but Stephenson struggled away from Indiana and moved through short stints with Charlotte, the Clippers and the Grizzlies. This season, Stephenson appeared in six games each with the Pelicans and Timberwolves, averaging 6.6 points.
A knee injury to Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey, along with injuries to Al Jefferson and Glenn Robinson III, opened the door for a return by Stephenson. He signed a three-year, $12 million deal Thursday, one that includes a team option in the final year, and made his debut Sunday at Cleveland.
“We’re very happy to have Lance back as part of our team,” Pacers President Larry Bird said in a statement. “We always knew he wanted to come back here, and we feel now is the right time, not only for the rest of this season, but moving forward. We look forward to having a long relationship with him, because we know what he can bring to our franchise, both on and off the court.”
Thousands of fans expressed their happiness Tuesday when Stephenson first checked into the game.
— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) April 4, 2017
— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) April 4, 2017
Stephenson wound up with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including an important three-pointer that essentially iced the game for the Pacers (his late layup notwithstanding). The player nicknamed “Born Ready” also had two rebounds and three assists, one of which was a nifty drop-off in the lane to Thaddeus Young for an easy layup.
Lance Stephenson back hitting clutch shots in INDY pic.twitter.com/5UFxYiOSLM
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 5, 2017
So fans at BLF, as many noted, got the full Lance Stephenson experience, including moments of brilliance as well as apparent cluelessness and/or blatant trolling. With the Pacers clinging to the final playoff spot in the East with four games left, those fans may not get much more of him this season, but it’s clear they’re happy to have him back.