Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There's enough star power on the Miami
Heat to light the night sky.
LeBron James is one of the most famous people on Earth. Dwyane Wade isn't
quite LeBron, but he isn't anonymous and Chris Bosh is going to the Hall of
Fame one day. Seriously, just ask him.
Ray Allen will be enshrined. He was even in a Spike Lee movie.
Chris Anderson, Miami's backup big man, has a gigantic Mohawk reminiscent of a
electro-shocked rooster and has tattoos covering his body so much so that he
looks like an atlas.
Even Pat Riley, the team president, is a rock star.
The Indian Pacers have three different players who've made an All-Star team and
one more in street clothes for the entire season. Paul George is becoming a
household name. Same goes for Roy Hibbert, appearances on "Parks and
So how is that a second-round draft pick is having such a huge impact on the
Eastern Conference Finals?
Lance Stephenson was taken by the Pacers with the 40th overall pick in the
2010 NBA Draft. He was a much ballyhooed high school player in Coney Island,
N.Y., and is the state's all-time leading scorer.
He went to Cincinnati for one year, was taken in the second round by the
Pacers and his career didn't get off to a great start.
In August 2010, Stephenson was arrested for pushing his girlfriend down a
flight of steps. The case was dismissed. In high school, he was suspended for
an altercation with a teammate, but the biggie was an arrest for groping a 17-
year-old fellow student.
The Pacers tired of his immaturity and demoted him to the D-League late in his
Stephenson saw more action his sophomore season with the Pacers, but still
wasn't a consistent contributor. It wasn't until this season that Stephenson
became a factor, and it was only due to the injury suffered by Danny Granger.
Stephenson started 72 games during the 2012-13 campaign, averaging a
respectable 8.8 points. Those numbers have climbed during the playoffs and
especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"When he's bad, we typically struggle. But when he's good, we're pretty darn
good," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said after their Game 4 win on Tuesday. "I
mean, that's the simplest way to put it, and it's very accurate, he's the
Truer words may never have been spoken.
During the postseason, Stephenson is averaging 12 points in Pacers' wins, and
just 6.8 points in Pacers' losses. He has six double-digit scoring nights in
Indiana victories, and only one in an Indiana setback.
Stephenson poured in 20 points against the Heat in the Pacers' win on Tuesday.
"I had to make this one of the best games I've played," he said. "I have to
show people I'm ready for any competition or any challenge that comes to me."
Part of that competitive spirit came to light when Stephenson spent some
quality time defending James in Game 4. The story goes, Stephenson asked Vogel
for the assignment. Who asks to cover James?
"We were just talking. Let's not make a bigger story than that is," Vogel said.
"We were just talking about loosening the load on Paul."
The plan will stay in place for Thursday's Game 5.
"Yeah, that was one of the shifts in philosophy going into Game 4, try
multiple bodies on him," Vogel said Wednesday of defending James.
But Stephenson is known as a scorer, at least that was his Coney Island
reputation. In Game 4, he took the ball to the basket, pushed tempo and even
handled the ball.
"I told Lance when he's that aggressive and he's pushing it and looking to
score, we're a better team," said Indiana guard George Hill. "We need him to
continue to do that for us to win this series, and he knows that."
He definitely does.
"I'm very important to this team," Stephenson said. "I can't take no days
- James, David West and Stephenson were all fined for flopping in Game 4.
Again, these flopping fines of $5,000 do nothing to stop a player from doing
it during a game.
- Officiating can make a huge difference. Let's agree that the officiating in
Game 4 was a little suspect late. I don't think the sixth foul on James was
a foul, I don't think Dwyane Wade traveled and I don't think the ball went off
West's arm on that crucial out-of-bounds play. That last one was more than a
little discouraging considering the refs took a month to review it.
Officiating should never be discussed in games this far into the postseason,
but as ESPN's Tim Legler (go Explorers!) correctly pointed out, Indiana
outplayed Miami in Game 4, so at least the "right" team won.
- The way the coach carousel is playing out means trouble for one team in
particular - the Philadelphia 76ers. With Mike Budenholzer going to Atlanta,
Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix and Steve Clifford headed to Charlotte, there are
five openings left - Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn, Detroit and
Philly. A sixth, the Sacramento Kings, is expected soon, but all reports
indicate Golden State assistant Mike Malone is the only choice.
But back to the Sixers, disqualify the Clippers and Nets because the best
candidates will take those much more attractive jobs. If Phil Jackson is truly
aiding Joe Dumars in the Pistons' search, then Brian Shaw, a longtime Jackson
assistant, makes sense. The Bucks seem keen on former Hawks coach Larry Drew.
And that leaves the Sixers with? Kelvin Sampson, a Houston Rockets assistant,
is my hunch now that Sam Hinkie, formerly of the Rockets, is in charge.
Michael Curry, the Sixers' top assistant, is running pre-draft workouts for
Philly, and is probably a candidate, but some reports indicate he's in the
running for the Milwaukee job. No matter who Hinkie tabs, he's not rushing to
do it, that's for sure.
- I love the idea that Karl Malone is returning to the Utah Jazz as a part-
time assistant. If you believe Utah is not bringing back Al Jefferson and Paul
Millsap (I believe that), then Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are on. They are
both incredible prospects, but need seasoning. Who better than Malone?
- Memphis Grizzlies reserve Quincy Pondexter got a date with Miss Tennessee
2012 Chandler Lawson via Twitter. I imagine I would have to explain this type
of courtship for some time to my father.
- Movie moment - Know what's a bad trend in movies these days - the whole
movie being made about a holiday. We've seen "New Year's Eve" and "Valentine's
Day." They're just vehicles for a bunch of stars to appear in one movie with
the holiday as a back drop. Put together a good script about Flag Day and I'll
- TV moment - "The Office" finale is behind us. As I wrote before, I stopped
watching last season, but checked out the final episode. As an episode of
television, it stunk. As a series finale, it wasn't terrible.
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