Lance Stephenson has been a lightning rod for the Pacers since his arrival. He is now quite beloved by many, but there are also many who hate him. Why?
The first bit of controversy was that a few people were saying as early as summer league that he was going to be phenomenal. The naysayers made it very clear that summer league was no place to judge talent. Besides he was the 40th pick with a history. They placed their interest in Paul George, who had the pedigree of First Round Draft pick, and played the game in a promising, albeit predictable way.
We all know the next chapter. Incredible controversy over a story about his girlfriend. Those people very sensitive to domestic abuse way overreacted, but that was understandable. Thankfully, that blew over. I think Lance and the girlfriend got back together, and there has been nary an incident since.
Some may think this is the reason many hate Lance, but I do not think so.
The next real progression of this theme was probably the reports that Lance was trash talking Danny or some other leader in practice. They cried to Bird who told the big boys to get over it. Personally, I've always tended to side with Lance on this one, but, regardless, it was an incident rather unusual to be caused by a new arrival who got little playing time. This was not according to script. That becomes a real problem, as we will soon see.
The next saga in this adventure is likely the Lebron choke sign. Get this: a two-bit nothing on the Pacers bench gets more time on ESPN than the rest of the Pacer players combined. Lance just stirs up some interesting $h*t, stuff that you were never expect. (Again, take note of this and put it in your pipe to smoke.)
The next chapter, after Danny sitting out a year, is that Lance is a possible threat to the returning Granger's playing time, his starting position, his finishing games, etc. This caused endless threads and dissension and controversy. Many think that this is the main reason so many hate Lance. But I don't think so.
The stats guys. We all love the stats guys. Have you noticed that the stats guys are, generally, the same guys who hate Lance? It's not a one-to-one exact thing, but there is a strong correlation (the stat dudes love that word).
Paul George is a great player. He is a stallion. He is a good kid who says the right things and makes the solid play that you can predict (key word, "predict."). We are blessed to have PG, but Lance Stephenson is from an entirely different world. He is of that planet where things are not exact, where art trumps science, where the flash decision making of an intuitive basketball genius causes fans to erupt in ecstasy and sports center analysts to wonder why they are mesmorized by a second rounder.
PG is predictable excellence. Lance is unpredicatable brilliance. Lance is far more like Larry Bird than PG, and this is why Bird loves him. Bird knows that at the highest levels, it's a game between the ears. Bird played that game like a master, and Lance knows the same tunes.
Lance cannot be controlled. Ah, control. That is the key word my friends. Our stats brethren organize their entire lives around control. They see the world as a mathematical equation. It all fits together. As we study the equations, we can predict life. As we study the stats, we can predict what our predictable players will do for the Pacers.
Lance tears all that to shreds. He showboats. He averages nearly a double double as a two guard. He shows up big time for the Knicks playoff finale and makes a four pointer while fading away in the deep corner. He takes calls regularly from Bird. He makes unprecedented Vote-for-Me All Star Game videos that are as over the top fantastic as they are hilarious. He causes Lebron and DWade to beg the refs at halftime to make Lance stop. He dumps water on Paul George's head while he tries to give an interview. He throws incredible passes that are often . . . . here it comes . . . unpredictable.
Those of us who know that unpredictability is the very characteristic that can get you to a championship, well, we love Lance. I mean, who wants a facilitator who throws passes everyone else can predict? But it is this very quality of being unpredictable that drives the control crowd crazy. Lance scares them. He is not quantifiable. He is not under control.
Lance is a risk. Yep. Guess who doesn't mind taking a risk? Larry Bird. Bird wasn't predictable either, and wasn't real good about always following the script. Just ask Bobby Knight. Risk is what catapults you to greatness. Lance plays with risk. Lance is a risk. And that's why the control crowd hates him.