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Lance Stephenson joined Alex Golden and Mike Facci on “Setting the Pace” to talk about his future with the Pacers and his favorite memories with the franchise that drafted him in 2010.
Will Lance Stephenson be in a Pacers uniform next season?
Stephenson, currently a free agent, came back to Indiana for a third stint with the team last season. After a few 10-day contracts, he signed with the team for the rest of the season in February. He averaged 9.3 points, 3.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 40 games.
“I want to be with the Pacers, come back and help the young guys go out there and play ball,” he said. “Me coming back to Indiana is always a blessing. Definitely want to come back.”
That time he almost signed with the Pacers in 2020
Stephenson said he was a day away from signing with the Pacers in 2020 before the pandemic hit, but then the league said no players who had been playing overseas — Stephenson was playing in China at the time — could be in the Orlando bubble.
“The next day, I was going to sign,” he said. “Then they came out with the rule. I was so mad.”
He wishes he’d never left the Pacers after the 2013-14 season.
Stephenson was set to become a free agent after the 2013-14 season, when he’d averaged 13.8 points and Indiana took Miami to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. He says Indiana offered him a 5-year, $44 million deal before free agency began.
“The Pacers gave me an offer, and I wanted to see what other offers were out there,” he said. “Once I saw the other offers, I was like, ‘I just want to be with the Pacers.’ By the time I came to that decision, the Pacers went elsewhere. I feel like they didn’t give me a chance to see what other offers were on the table, to see what my worth was.”
For what it’s worth, former team president Larry Bird had a different recollection of the events.
“I really feel bad about losing him,” Bird said in July 2014. “I hope it doesn’t interfere with our relationship. But I did what I could possibly do to keep him here. Even if he didn’t have any other offers, I was committed to giving him that $44 million because I believe in the kid. If you look at our roster, we have five or six guys in the last year of their deals, plus David (West) and Roy (Hibbert) can opt out, so don’t you think I wanted to keep Lance and Paul (George) locked into long-term deals?”
Had he returned the next season, Stephenson said that team could have won a title.
“I feel like if I’d stayed, we would’ve ended up winning the chip, man. Seriously,” he said, though that was the offseason Paul George was injured with the national team. “That was the best team I ever played with. Everybody knew their roles and what they needed to bring to the table. I haven’t been on a better team than that since.”
That time Larry Bird shocked him in practice
Stephenson recalled the time the team was stretching before a practice. Larry Bird, then the team president, walked onto the court and grabbed a basketball.
“Larry walks on the court, grabs a ball and started jacking 3s,” Stephenson said. “Swish. Swish. Swish. I’m looking, like, ‘Are you guys seeing this right now?’ He made at least 10 in a row, and walked off and sat like he didn’t do nothing. I’m like, ‘This guy is nice. That’s the legend right there.’”
He wants to play with Paul George again
Golden asked Stephenson which former Pacer he’d like to play with again.
“I want to play with Paul George again,” he said. “We’ve got to do that over again.
He added, “I like Victor Oladipo, too.”
The game that showed Lance he could be an NBA star
When asked about his most memorable game as a Pacer, it didn’t take long for Lance to answer: Game 6 of the 2013 second-round series against the Knicks.
Stephenson, the New York kid playing on his home court, scored 25 points in 34 minutes to help the Pacers win 106-99 and advance to the conference finals against the Heat.
“That game, I was like, ‘Yo, I’m really good at basketball,'” he said. “My goal was always to make it to the NBA, but you don’t know if you’re going to play good. I knew from that day on, ‘I’m really good at this game.’ After that, I knew the sky was the limit.”
How many shoes does he have?
Golden asked Stephenson a few question submitted by fans, including one asking how many shoes he has.
“I’ve got 4,000-5,000 shoes,” he said. “I’ve got four rooms, and it’s in my garage. I had to build stuff in my garage so I could stack them.”
Lance gives Indy restaurant recommendations
“My favorite place to eat in Indiana? Hooters, for sure. Everybody knows that,” he said. “They’d used to meet me there after the game. Prime 47, Ruth’s Chris, Oceanaire, Cooper’s Hawk — good salmon, nice little wine if you like wine.”
More: Hooters held his favorite table, but Lance Stephenson was a no-show
Follow IndyStar trending sports reporter Matthew VanTryon on Twitter @MVanTryon and email him story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Lance Stephenson on career with Pacers, future in NBA