"By any means necessary” – As a coach, that is a motto you want your players to live by in order to get the win and that is exactly what Lance Stephenson does.
The enigmatic Indiana Pacers guard has come under intense scrutiny recently due to his antics in order to “get under LeBron James’ skin” and give his team the upper hand. Clearly it didn’t work since the Miami Heat closed out the series in six games and will now be making their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance while the Pacers go fishing – or whatever they've got planned for the summer.
As we’ve established, Lance’s tactics didn’t work. However, the question that still lingers, were his tactics they fair or foul?
There are plenty of ways to try and throw your opponent off their game: Trash talking, gestures or simply playing well. You name it, the possibilities are virtually endless. And then there's Stephenson's fairly unorthodox ways that push the envelope.
Were his some of his antics childish? Yep, no doubt about it. No one in their right mind would tell you a grown man blowing into another grown man’s ear during a basketball game is a normal display of maturity. Then again, if it works, why the hell not?
Plus, veteran leader David West didn’t object to it. Instead, he said: “That's a part of who Lance is. I didn't even know [what he did] until after the game. Obviously, we're in a must-win situation. So everything is a go in my opinion.
"We've got to try to win this game. We've got to try to do whatever we can to get whatever type of advantage we can get to try to win the game."
Were some of the antics dirty? Possibly. But, before you decide think about this for a second: If it had been West or Udonis Haslem that was tapped on the forehead and then squared up to the offender, would we not be praising them for upholding the enforcer role and not taking any B.S? Yet, because Stephenson was sneaky (and smart) enough to retaliate discretely and not get a technical when provoked, he is a dirty player?
As for the flagrant foul call for the clothesline on Norris Cole which Erik Spoeltra called “excessive” and “over the top,” it did look like a genuine attempt at the ball. Although if you add slow motions replays and his reputation, then it's a completely different story.
LeBron did make a good point that:“If it was C.J. Watson then we would say he went for the ball. The fact that it was Lance then, we can say he went for his face so, I guess it was wrong place at the wrong time for him.”
Stephenson also went and listened in on Erik Spoelstra’s conversation with Cole and Mario Chalmers in Game 5, much to Stan Van Gundy’s dismay. Referee Ed Malloy, even stepped in to send Lance away although technically speaking, what he was doing was not against any official rules. It is something the likes of Rajon Rondo have done in the past because it wasn’t an official time-out so there were no restrictions as to where he can go.
Besides, there was nothing malicious there. At worst it is just being a nuisance and trying to agitate your opponent to gain a competitive edge. Perhaps it might have actually worked on the LeBron James from five years ago, not the strong minded, freak of nature we have today. Still, it was still worth a shot, right?
Nonetheless, it doesn’t appear as if we’ll be seeing him engaging in anymore antics of the sort - at least not while he is in Indiana anyway - after Larry Bird allegedly told him, “Don't do it again.” Although that may be a little bit hypocritical from Larry Legend.
Personally, I’m inclined to say Lance Stephenson's tactics were fair, original and he is building up a reputation that he doesn't deserve. Quite frankly, there are and have been players who were a lot worse, such as Dennis Rodman.
Plus, It’s the NBA Playoffs for crying out loud. This is when legacies and dynasties are forged. If you’re not doing everything under the sun to win, then odds are you won’t get very far.
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