Dec 16, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) takes a shot against Detroit Pistons forward Kyle Singler (25) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Detroit defeats Indiana 101-96. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Stephenson's Future With the Pacers


In August, most players on most teams who got into most types of legal trouble would likely be given the time to plead their case, be tried by the justice system and, even if found guilty, be allowed the chance to give their mea culpa, perhaps attend some counseling and then rejoin the team. For an example, see: Beasley, Michael.

As everyone knows, however, the Pacers are not most teams. Not when it comes to this.

The JailPacers Era is such a millstone around the team’s neck that legal trouble — any legal trouble — comes with added weight. Just because of the transgressions that others have committed in the past while employed by the Pacers, everything is now magnified.

And when the legal trouble is allegedly shoving a young woman down a flight of stairs, it is already magnified simply by how heinous the act is. The fact that it’s so heinous and your paycheck says Indiana Pacers means that the whole team is now on trial by a community who has been reluctantly listening to team that has been preaching “we’ve changed … we have players that represent your community now … we are putting a product on the floor that you can be proud.”

Well, if what the New York Daily News is reporting turns out to be an accurate tale of what happened late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, Lance is looking like a pretty difficult person to be proud of.

And based on this tweet from Indy Star Pacers beat writer Mike Wells, the Pacers are now probably kicking themselves for taking a chance on a kid who, on talent alone, probably should have been drafted early than 40th this June.

Lance Stephenson Arrested

Now the question becomes: What will the Pacers’ reaction be?

Will they immediately excommunicate Lance? He is signed for two years (UPDATE: signed for four actually, but only first two are guaranteed), but the total deal is only around $1.5 million (guaranteed), so the salary cap ramifications are largely insignificant even if the team wanted to waive him tomorrow. That’s certainly an option on the table, particularly now that Darren Collison can run the point and AJ Price will likely be healthy enough to back up the one well before Christmas.

Option two would be to let the legal issues work themselves out and make a decision based on that. Of course, the justice system works in mysterious — and slow — ways, so by the time even all the initial he said/she said gets figured out, the Pacers decision likely will not come for a while. And during that time, more and more people will hear about the story and more and more people will again have a reason to be turned off by the team. Still, this would likely be the “fairest” thing to do from Lance’s perspective. It would also allow the team to remain objective and impartial until a ruling causes them to either stand by the kid or waive him the day he is found guilty and, thus, in their estimation, no longer fit to play for Indiana.

To “stand by the kid” — no matter what is decided — is the final option. You recognize his talent, you allow his punishment to be handled by the legal system, not his employer, and provided he’s still allowed to come to work, you let him come to work. He apologizes, does some community service and promises to be on his best behavior for the rest of his days in Pacer blue.

But it feels sort of hard to believe that the team would do that.

Again.

UPDATE: Tom Lewis has a nice post that recounts some comments about Lance that Bird made earlier this Summer. Interesting.

Tags: Jail Pacers Lance Stephenson

  • chris

    Lance is a hell of a ball player but when you pull a stunt like this talent doesn’t mean anything. If he is found guilty I hope the court makes him sit in jail for the seven years that is the minimum time for served for the multiple charges against him. As far as the pacers go drop him now before all hell breaks lose in indy and while your at it sen obrien and bird right along with him. I don’t even care if bird got collison here that and drafting granger and hibbert are the only things he has done good here.

  • Chris D.

    He’ll be lucky if his salary would cover the settlement he’s going to have to make to avoid destitution from a lawsuit. I say the Pacers withold his pay and let a judge force them to pay it. A team needs to make a stand in this league. At what point does a player void his contract? The Pacers should sue him for damages even if a judge forces them to pay. They owe it to all the decent players on the team and in the league. Enough is enough.

  • peter

    Whatever outcome arises from his legal situation, I believe the Pacers should keep him away from the team this season. He obviously needs help, and basketball should not be top priority in his life right now. Perhaps a year from now, his status in the NBA could be reevaluated, but not now.

    To me the biggest issue is how the Pacers handle crises. Bird and Boyle gave the standard “lawyer” answer in let’s wait and see, which is much like they have done in the past. Someone else needs to step in and do these types of news conferences. The Pacers need to respond by giving the standard “lawyer” answer, but also stating in general terms, not inferring guilt upon a player, that violence towards women is never condoned by the franchise. Second, the Pacers need to verbally recognize how this incident will be connected to their past legal issues, thereby acknowledging the gravity of the situation, and how this incident will affect public sentiment towards the team and the new CIB aggreement. Ignoring these issues is like ignoring the big elephant in the room. The Pacers need to put all of their issues out there, not letting them fester in people’s minds.

    The reason I believe the Pacers respond the way they do is that I think they believe if the Pacers start winning all of there problems will go away, but nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, winning helps, but it alone will not fix attendance or public perception. Yes, the Colts have had issues with players like Foster and Gill recently, but besides winning, the Colts respond beyond just giving the “wait and see with the legal process.” To think the Colts get a free pass is in error. The Pacers need to take a leadship position during crises, not hiding or running away from them by allowing the legal system to direct public perception. The Pacers also need to recognize they have a responsibility of getting players help when issues like this happen and basketball is second. In short, the Pacers need to take a more active approach, not a passive approach like they have done in the past.

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