Former Lincoln High School and University of Cincinnati standout Lance Stephenson has been signed to a multiyear deal by the Indiana Pacers. Reportedly the deal includes 2 guaranteed years in which he would make the league minimum of $473,604 and $762,195 in his second year. Then he would have 2 years at a team option. So basically Lance Stephenson has been guaranteed 2 years of his dream. He will be playing in the NBA. So for all the haters out there, big ups to Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson.
For all the naysayers out there, myself included, Lance apparently was ready. Now I will admit that I said numerous times I thought Lance’s early departure from the University of Cincinnati was a horrific decision. The kid had a solid year at UC and was Big East Freshman of the Year, but he did not put up numbers that proved he was NBA ready. On the year, he averaged 12.3 points a game, to go with 5.4 rebounds a game, and 2.5 assists. These are definitely not numbers to be ashamed of, especially when playing in the rugged Big East. But do these sounds like 1 and done numbers? No way!
Now I and most of Cincinnati have a bias. We expected Lance Stephenson to come in and turn an already talented team into contenders. We fully expected the Bearcats to be a top 20 team in the country last year. UC was supposed to ride super senior guard Deonta Vaughn and the immensely talented freshman Lance Stephenson back into contention. This did not happen. Lance struggled with the learning curve and seemed to butt heads with Bearcat Coach Mick Cronin frequently. So after Lance did not have the amazing season that we all expected and thought that we would have, we figured we had at least another year maybe 2 with the one the Rucker Park boys called “Born Ready.” I and most of Cincinnati was wrong.
Lance fled for the money. We said he was a fool. We thought he was making a similar mistake to former Bearcat freshman standout Dontonio Winfield. The guy (Stephenson) shot 21.9% from 3 point range and 66.4% from the free throw line. He struggled at times to fit into the half court offense. He appeared uncomfortable frequently on both the offensive and defensive ends. He even had issues keeping possession of the rock seeming to struggle with his dribbling abilities. And just did not have nearly the star status of a John Wall or Demarcus Cousins. See what people do not realize is Lance did not think he was John Wall. He just knew that he would get drafted. Upon getting drafted he could prove his worth. Well he did that and more in the NBA Summer League. The kid shot 73 percent from the floor (tops in the League) and averaged 15 points a game. He thoroughly impressed Larry “Legend” (Bird), the President of the Indiana Pacers, who was utterly shocked that a talent like Lance fell into their laps with the 40th pick in the draft.
See most people around the country did not get to see Lance play on a nightly basis like we did in Cincinnati. They saw Lance when he was making guys fall down from his utterly disgusting crossover against Xavier. They saw him playing under the bright lights at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. People fail to realize that Lance down the stretch put on a show where in his final 9 games he averaged around 15.3 points and nearly 7 rebounds a game. He was a rising star down the stretch. We just saw the overall product during the course of the entire season and were not impressed. Our perceptions got the best of us.
Now do I think Lance will be a star in the NBA? I really have no idea. Right now, he does not appear to have the makings of an instant star in this League. But I will state, Lance has an NBA style game. He loves to get up and down the court and finish. He has a very aggressive mentality and loves the one on one style. He also has great length (6 foot 5) for the point guard position. And we all know that the NBA game is defined by length and size at every position. Maybe the college game just did not suit his abilities and was another reason why he wanted to get out quick? People say they have already noticed a big time improvement in both his ball handling abilities and his shot. Hopefully he is just as ready from a mental standpoint as he seems to be physically for the very unforgiving NBA.
But I will say this. Lance “the Dance” Stephenson, as I liked to call him, was declared “Born Ready” years before anyone in Cincinnati had ever seen him play or knew who he was. What do we know from just one year of watching the guy? Perhaps he is “Ready” for the NBA.
I wish Lance the best of luck and hope to see him become an instant contributor on his way to a long and fruitful career in the NBA.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportskraze.