ESPN reports that the Pacers have offered Lance Stephenson a five-year, $44 million contract, but that some are saying he's worth more than that.
"I feel like the Pacers organization helped me a lot and made me the man that I am now," said Stephenson last week in a WTHR interview at the Fieldhouse. "Whatever happens happens. But I want to be here."
Stephenson is a free agent who can talk to any NBA team he wants. But this summer, he's been acting like a Pacer who is very comfortable in Indianapolis.
Just last week at Victory Field, he pitched for the winning team that included many of his Pacers teammates in a celebrity softball game. Stephenson sits courtside for almost every Indiana Fever game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He continues to work out at the Fieldhouse almost daily since the Pacers season ended.
Stephenson’s Sir Lancelot YouTube NBA All-Star campaign fell short last season. But Stephenson enjoyed a breakout season in his 4th year with the Pacers. His statistics jumped in every category, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He led the team in rebounding and assists. Stephenson shot 49% from the field and 35% from three-point range, both career bests. He thrilled Pacers fans with a franchise record five triple-doubles.
"He has the ability to be a major contributor on a championship team," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. "I think his ceiling is pretty high."
Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird selected Stephenson in 2010 in the second round (40th overall) of the NBA draft at age 19. Stephenson is now just 23 years old. He has grown up in Indianapolis, but how much? Maturity remains a big question with his sometimes over the top antics. He led the Eastern Conference with 14 technical fouls.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Lance drew national attention, most of it negative, when he blew in the ear of Miami Heat superstar LeBron James. Even after Bird warned Stephenson to settle down, Stephenson tapped James in the face the very next game. But Bird has remained one of Stephenson's strongest supporters.
"I always want him back," said Bird. "You just don't let talent like that walk away if you can help it. There's going to be a price that we're going to and we're not going over."
Stephenson made about a million dollars last season. His next contract will pay him several million for several seasons - but that remains the sticking point.