A lot of people have been saying they don’t really understand the Lance effect, they are just going with it. They say they have quit trying to figure it out.
I am going to attempt to explain it to some degree.
Lance is an artist. A fragile, temperamental, but sometimes great artist.
He is a performing artist. When the bright lights shine, he shines the brightest.
Take as an example, J.R.R. Tolkien, famous author of the Lord of the Rings. (I wrote a screenplay about Tolkien and his close friendship with C.S. Lewis, with whom he had a falling out later in life.) Tolkien was a bit shy, not very charismatic, eccentric, mumbled a bit, and talked out of the sides of his mouth. He was not a good lecturer. He rambled.
But he took on another persona as an actor. He came alive. He was an actor in high school. His dissertation was on Beowulf, and sometimes during his later lectures he would switch modes and begin reciting from memory passages of Beowulf, pretending to be the ancient writer and even the warrior himself. When he did so, he totally changed character. He became loud, direct, excited, passionate, charismatic. He would bring the otherwise bored audience to their feet in applause.
Then he would go back to his regular self, shy and diminutive.
Lance is strange. He isn’t very well spoken. He doesn’t approach the game analytically. But his artist traits do come out. He is known amongst his colleagues as a funny guy who does imitations (a right brained thing). He did that hysterical video for the All-Star game that just came totally out of left field. He is a performer.
PG made a comment that the other teams didn’t take enough time to get to know Lance. And if Lance doesn’t have that supportive environment and enough time to flourish (like those first several budding years in Indy), then he can’t come alive as an artist.
When he does, he takes over. Nothing is analytical. It is complete gestalt, right brain, irrational unconscious artistry. He sees all sorts of things on the floor no one else sees. He invents moves right on the spot. He reads other players (just like the imitations), he discerns the atmosphere of the facility, he gauges the temperament of the crowd. He doesn’t have any idea how he does it. He just does it. It’s a gift. It can’t be taught, and he can’t teach anyone else to do it.
He shines as a performer. A basketball player is a performer, so playing in front of a big crowd causes him to rise to the occasion. Now, in some situations, that hasn’t been enough. He’s failed. But when he has the freedom, the crowd is large (like playoffs against Lebron) and the lights are shining bright, he basks in the moment, and this is when he is at his best.
He knows how to work a crowd as well as any player I’ve ever seen (he and Reggie have a lot in common here). He knows how to rile up the opponents. He knows how to create a script and finish the storyline with a climax.
But, in the wrong environment, he can fall on his face. And he often does.
There is someone else that has similar qualities. Larry Bird. Bird was a showman. He could throw that spectacular pass, make that incredible shot, steal the ball or do some other heroic thing in the last seconds of a game that stole the show. He sees this same quality in Lance.
Like any great artist, Lance can’t be quantified. And maybe this is why there seems to be a bit of a correlation between the Lance skeptics and the integer types on the forum. Lance is about eyeballs and intuition. Measuring him with stats only makes him more confusing.
Lance is a step ahead of the game, just like he’s a step ahead with his passes that teammates often can’t handle. He knows, ultimately, that all this stuff done around NBA events is about the big moment, the spectacle, the memories. When we look back at the great Pacer moments of the past 25 years, what do we remember? Reggie giving the choke gesture to Spike or screaming at the Knicks bench after making 8 points in 9 seconds. There’s Bird’s deadpan stare after Reggie hit the big shot against the Bulls. There's Granger breaking his teeth going after a loose ball. These great moments are about showmanship as much as basketball. That's the ultimate activity, and the great performance artists know it.
Lance is weird. Lance is unpredictable. Lance is bad. And Lance can be great when the bright lights pop on.