Whether or not Lance Stephenson ever takes the court in an Indiana Pacers uniform remains to be seen, but the team continues supporting the young guard while waiting for a resolution to his legal issues.
Stephenson's arrest and pending court date on October 19th were certainly a punch to the gut for the organization. There's no doubt that the Pacers are planning ahead for life without Lance. As Mike Wells tweeted today, the Pacers have kept Stephenson away from the Fieldhouse, instead having him work with assistant coaches at a different facility.
Seems kind of harsh, but looking at the big picture it makes sense for bothsides. The best thing for Stephenson personally is to be in Indiana working on both his game and personal issues far away from his troubles in New York. But assuming the worst and a conviction holds up the vicious details of Stephenson's arrest, which in turn leadsto the Pacers cutting ties, it would make for a smoother transition if Stephenson didn't develop the relationships and bonds with teammates and staff from working together at the Fieldhouse every day. Regardless, the Fieldhouse exile is a strong indication that Stephenson's days are numbered, save for a positive legal result.
While the Pacers are making things difficult for Stephenson on the court, off the court they have a mentor in place working to get Stephenson on the right track in life which is far more important at this time in the young man's life.
Clark Kellogg didn't have time to ease into his role as vice president of player relations for the Pacers, but he also didn't hesitate to jump right in to help with Stephenson. Kellogg described his main role as that of a mentor for the players.
"I define it as a mentoring role in helping to create empowering programs for our players so they can be champions on and off the court" Kellogg said. "That's kind of the umbrella we're trying to operate under."
Sounds like a solid mission statement, but with a wide variety of personalities from all walks of life it will take more than making sure the players treat the fans well and work with the community. Kellogg is prepared to address a comprehensive range of issues facing the players.
"Also, trying to steer them away from situations that lead to negative publicity for them and the team That's a real challenge because of how young our players are and how difficult it is to be hands on 24/7," Kellogg explained. "That's kind of where I am now, trying to get to know our guys and put things in place to help them with their decision making and their handling of unique demands that are part of being a pro player. The scrutiny you get. The attention you attract both positive and negative. The dynamics of dealing with family when you come into the kind of money these players come into. I mean it's a very comprehensive list of things you deal with, but primarily trying to mentor our players through some of their challenges and opportunities in a way to where they can begin to take ownership in a positive and good way for themselves now and going forward."
So what does Kellogg have to say about his work with Stephenson?
"I've been involved with Lance extensively because his incident happened a couple of weeks ago and there were some steps we needed to take in order to get him back on the right track,: Kellog said. "Obviously, the legal outcome is still undetermined at this point. We won't get any clarification there until some time in October most likely."
So the legal issues don't just impact Stephenson personally, they also have implications for the Pacers because the rookie is under contract with the team. Navigating through all of the potential outcomes requires some patience. But that doesn't mean Stephenson is on ice waiting for his court date. We know he's in town working out at some undisclosed location and now we know Kellogg is also working him out off the court.
"We've put Lance in a position where he can begin to work his way back into the good graces of the team, but also give him some help away from the court in dealing with some of the issues that may have led to this incident with his girlfriend," Kellogg explained. "So he's on track now."
Great, but can he stay on track? That question will continue to linger with any positive reports on Stephenson even from such a reliable source as Clark Kellogg. Even if Stephenson is absolved of any wrong-doing in this case, the questions will linger. With Kellogg in his corner, helping to shine a light on the path to success, the Pacers have availed Stephenson of resources far valuable than the guaranteed contract he signed.
For his sake as a person, not a player, I hope he takes full advantage.