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Larry Bird no longer works for the Pacers, but he still makes his presence felt occasionally.
Bird and Lance Stephenson, whom Bird drafted in the second round in 2010 after Stephenson’s freshman season at Cincinnati, communicate with one another a few times per month.
“Sometimes I hit him and sometimes he hits me,” Stephenson said.
“Keep playing hard, do the little things and let the game come to you, things like that,” Stephenson said. “He lets me know what to do on the floor and how to make the game easier for me.”
Bird took a chance on Stephenson, trading up to take him with the 40th overall pick. Stephenson had been a legendary high school player in New York City and a high school All-American, but wasn’t widely viewed as NBA material as a college freshman. Stephenson averaged 12.3 points at Cincinnati, where he was the Big East’s Rookie of the Year, but played an undisciplined game. He appeared in just 12 games as a rookie and 42 last season, but has blossomed as a starter in the absence of Danny Granger.
He entered Wednesday’s game against Washington averaging 7.7 points, but had scored in double figures in the previous five. He also led the team in three-point shooting (.390) and had a respectable assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6 to 1.1).
“He’s like a father figure to me,” Stephenson said of Bird. “He’s helped me out throughout my (NBA) career. He’s a great guy.”