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