Derran Cobb is a freshman telecommunications major and writes for the The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
It's the 2013 Eastern Conference Semifinals, and Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson dribbles the ball up the right side of the court against New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert.
Stephenson does a a series of dribble moves and switches the ball to his left hand, but quickly spins back to his right and leaves Shumpert behind. Stephenson dribbles towards the basket, but as New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler slides over to defend, Stephenson shifts his attention away from the basket and completes a no look pass to Indiana Pacers forward Paul George for a layup.
The crowd in Bankers Life Fieldhouse goes crazy as Stephenson amps them up with his antics.
In 2022, you will find the same result.
Stephenson left the Pacers in free agency to sign with the Charlotte Hornets in summer 2014. Since, Stephenson has played for seven other teams and had one more stint with the Pacers from 2016-18.
Stephenson returned to Indiana for his third stint after the Pacers announced Jan. 1 he and forward Kyle Anderson were signed to 10-Day COVID-19 hardship deals.
According to Sporting News.com, the NBA hardship exemption allows for a temporary roster spot to allows franchises to exceed the 15-man roster limit in times of need (multiple players being out because of injury or illness).
In Stephenson’s Gainbridge Fieldhouse debut Jan. 5, he recorded 30 points and five assists off the bench in a 129-121 loss against the Brooklyn Nets. He subbed in with six minutes left in the first quarter and scored 20 consecutive points, including a buzzer beating 3-point shot to end the quarter.
In the Pacers 125-113 win agasint the Utah Jazz Jan. 8, Stephenson scored 16 points and a totaled a career-high 14 assists. Center Domantas Sabonis posted a career-high 42 points, and half of his points came from assists from Stephenson.
Stephenson provides the organization with a much needed spark off the bench, and his energy brings the best out of his teammates. The fans feed off Stephenson's energy and head coach Rick Carlisle has voiced his support. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Carlisle spoke of Stephenson's contributions.
“Our bench hasn’t been this into the game in any game this year.” Carlisle said. “It’s not that they’re not good guys, there just hasn’t been the same kind of vibe.”
For Stephenson, it's not about the stats or praise. He wants to win and give the crowd something to cheer for.
"It's all about winning for real," Stephenson said. "You can have all of the points you want, but if you don't win, it don't matter. So I was just so excited that we got the win, and I got to get the fans involved because that's like family."
The Pacers signed Stephenson to a standard 10-Day contract Jan. 14 because they no longer have any players out with COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols.
I think I can speak for most Indiana Pacers fans when I say the front office should sign Stephenson for the remainder of the 2021-22 season.