Yeah, I know dude may have single-handedly motivated the hated Miami Heat into curb-stomping the hell out of his Indiana Pacers tonight. Sure Stephenson comes off a bit buffoonish in his antics as of late. There is no reason why a grown man should be blowing into another man’s ear.
And Stephenson teammates appear to loathe his antics. Paul George kept saying that the focus should be on the game. Even the soft-as-Cottonelle Roy Hibbert echoed those sentiments.
And more importantly, Pacers basketball czar Larry Bird – one of the biggest trash-talkers of all time – told Stephenson that those antics were unacceptable, telling him to “stop”.
I’d say the Pacers are scapegoating the hell out of Stephenson for their shortcomings.
Again say what you want about him, but Stephenson easily has displayed the most heart outside of David West for the Pacers. Let’s be honest here, the Pacers have been playing soft since the Danny Granger trade the last half of the season. One would think the Pacers would eventually regroup and build on the form that shot them to the top of the NBA standings at the beginning of the season.
That’s not Stephenson’s fault. Hell I’d argue that Stephenson has been instrumental in keeping the Pacers in the series with the Heat. It sure as hell wasn’t George Hill, George, and especially Hibbert.
I think Stephenson is the Pacers’ Dennis Rodman. For those of you “New Jacks” out there, Rodman was the dude who constantly got into opponents’ heads while doing the dirty work on the court. His defensive and rebounding prowess helped lead two teams to multiple NBA championships (Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls). Rodman was also the unofficial “glue guy” of those teams.
Unfortunately I think that once the Pacers get their asses kicked out of the playoffs tonight in Miami, two things will happen: 1) head coach Frank Vogel will be fired and 2) Stephenson will not be brought back and his earning potential will be hurt by folks’ reaction to his antics. And that is despite the fact that Stephenson displayed more heart in these playoffs than most of his teammates COMBINED.
And that’s unfortunate.