Lance Stephenson is finally back—but not with the Indiana Pacers

Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

With the NBA in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak, new rules have been forwarded to allow hardship exceptions for clubs missing players due to health and safety protocols. Fortunately, the Indiana Pacers are among the few teams to not have a player currently shelved due to the virus.

The league’s new lenience toward considerations for replacement players, however, has been an opportunity for free agents to return to the league, like Isaiah Thomas, who was recently inked to a 10-day deal by the Los Angeles Lakers. Aside from the two-time All-Star, another player—a well-known name in Indiana, has clinched another go-round in the big league.

Lance Stephenson, a fan favorite and local Pacers legend, is finally back after being out of the league for more than two years following his last tenure with the Lakers in the 2018-19 season. Since then, the nine-year veteran played in China before kicking off the campaign in the G-League with the Grand Rapids Gold, the Denver Nuggets’ affiliate.

Former Indiana Pacers wing and fan favorite Lance Stephenson has returned to the NBA after a two-season hiatus

Born Ready will be suiting up for the Atlanta Hawks which, in addition to injuries, will have to push through in the foreseeable future without Trae Young, Clint Capela, and Danilo Gallinari after the three entered protocols.

Stephenson, on Wednesday night, reunited with former coach Nate McMillan in the A-Town, who helmed the sidelines for the Pacers in his second stint with the team when he spent the latter part of the 2016-17 season and then the entirety of the 2017-18 season donning the Blue and Gold.

In his debut with the Hawks, Stephenson played relatively well, finishing with eight rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes to offset a poor shooting night and ending the contest a plus-12 in a six-point loss to the Magic. He looked good functioning in his typical role as an all-around wing who can serve as a trigger point for the offense.

This remains a short-term opportunity for the versatile wing, but if Stephenson remains solid both on and off the court, and the Omicron variant continues to propel the league’s COVID outbreak, then Born Ready could end up donning the NBA colors for the rest of the season.

Just don’t play well against the Pacers. Maybe a highlight or two can do.

Or the frenetic air guitar as I douse in sentimentality.

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