Larry Bird may not have liked what he saw when Lance Stephenson blew in LeBron James‘ ear during game five of the Eastern Conference Finals, but that won’t change how Stephenson plays. No fan, coach or team president will be able to change him, it’s who he is.
When asked about the meeting, Stephenson said, “Bird said, ‘Don’t do it again,’ so I’m not going to do it again. He’s kept me on the right path my whole career, and if he says something to me, I take it to heart.”
That statement has a shelf life until the game starts tonight. Just like Stephenson admitted that trying to get into James’ head was a bad idea early in the series, he was right back at it in game five.
“I don’t think I can get into LeBron’s head,” he said. “He’s the best player in the league, he knows how to play through that kind of stuff. I don’t think it bothered him at all. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s going to find a way to play great.”
So he’s going to be an angel tonight, right? Just remember actions speak louder than words.
He’s a chippy kind of guy. He flops, talks and is physical before and after the whistle. He’s a pest and every team needs one. He will do whatever it takes to to gain a competitive advantage. Bird had to have a meeting with him because that’s what front office types do. Before it was over he probably gave him the old nudge and a wink, and let him be on his way. He knows just as well as anybody, players like Stephenson have a role on every team. For the Indiana Pacers he is the “igniter” that gets them going.
So, what’s his motivation? Nothing.
When Stephenson feels like doing something nobody is safe. Even Erik Spoelstra got a taste of “Lance being Lance,” as he hung over the coach’s shoulder during a Miami Heat huddle during a break in the action on Wednesday night.
All eyes will be on Stephenson tonight. Pay attention because he will still be talking to James, still pushing Dwyane Wade and still acting like he was shot by a cannon after the slightest bit of contact.
Don’t expect Frank Vogel to yank him from the game, or Bird to come down from the stands. If they aren’t disciplining him for it they either encouraging it or simply don’t care.