Lance Stephenson enjoys talk ‘about the old times’ with Paul George, George Hill

Lance Stephenson’s pro career has not taken off since he chose to leave left Indianapolis in July, 2014. It has, in fact, regressed.

Back in Indy on Tuesday, where he spent his first four seasons — four rollercoaster seasons with both head-scratching and genuinely pleasing moments — Stephenson never even saw the court.

Stephenson chats with his former teammates after the game Tuesday. [Photo: @Pacers on Instagram]

Stephenson chats with his former teammates after the game Tuesday. [Photo: @Pacers on Instagram]

Thus it’s understandable why he didn’t want to talk to the media. He’s recorded six “DNP – Coach’s Decision” over the last 10 games, including Tuesday night back in his old stomping grounds. Back in the place where he was last successful.

During morning shootaround, he said hello but had zero interest in doing an interview with anyone. He then scanned the area for a PR staffer to handle it. And one did, coming over to say nicely that media time was over (just six minutes in). The whole Blake Griffin punching a team staffer had everyone on edge.

I won’t back down from a challenge.

[Video Recap of Pacers’ loss to the Clippers]

After the game, the Clippers had media members wait at the front of the locker room and brought players to them rather than media folks going to the individual lockers of the players they need to interview. A PR staffer then informed Lance that he had an interview request — but Lance rather not.

That’s when neighbor Paul Pierce, a veteran of the NBA, joked around with Stephenson, who said “I’ve been gone two years. I’ve already talked about all of that.”

Pierce relied, “It’s where you made your name at. You got to talk about all your time.”

Then Pierce, already showered and dressed, headed for the door. Still grinning, he turned around and added, “All that New York legend.”

Stephenson, who’s just 25, was the happiest that I’ve seen him in two years was when he talked with former teammates Paul George and George Hill after the Clippers held on to beat the Pacers. They talked for about a minute and shared several laughs.

“Just how much we miss each other,” he said about the exchange. “Talked about the old times real quick.”

(Not even an hour after the game, Stephenson shared that photo on Instagram.)

There was an exchange earlier in the game between the Pacers’ 2010 Draft Class. Paul George finished at the rim and was fouled, and then momentum carried him to just in front of the visitor’s bench. George took a moment to shake up with his former teammate.

“That’s my boy, man,” Stephenson said. “We go way back.”

Those two will forever be linked, and are one of the team’s best — if not the best — draft classes ever.

“We came in together,” Stephenson continued. “We was on the bench together. He took off first and I came behind him. We learned a lot from each other. That’s my guy for life.”

Rather than accepting a five-year deal worth $44 million to continue with the Pacers, Stephenson (and outside influences) passed and accepted a deal with Michael Jordan’s Charlotte Hornets that only guaranteed $18 million over two years.

He was never a good fit in Charlotte, where head coach Steve Clifford even took hours of time to watch old Pacers game tape to see in exactly what situations Stephenson thrived. Making matters worse, his 3-point shot was absent; he shot just 17 percent from deep during the 2014-15 season.

Last June, Los Angeles Clippers President of Basketball Operations and head coach Doc Rivers traded for Lance. He sent away Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes in exchange for the Stephenson and his $9 million guaranteed this season, plus a $9.4 million team option for the 2016-17 season.

(I still cannot comprehend why Stephenson accepted a team-option in Year 3 of his current deal, originally with Charlotte.)

“He’s trying to find his role and I’m trying to find him a role,” Rivers said. “It’s a two-way street. It’s never one-way. Lance has been very good, he’s been positive. He obviously wants to play more, as all players do, but I think he’s handled it great.”

It’s got to be terribly frustrating for Stephenson, who was so close to an All-Star role in 2014. He spent much of this past summer in Las Vegas with Impact.

“I’m a pro now,” he said. “I know what it takes. I know that even though you’re on the bench and you’re not playing as much, you always got to stay ready. Anything can happen. Right now I’m just staying ready.”

He was the last Clippers player on the floor during pre-, pre-game warmups about 40 minutes before tip-off.

“You always learning,” he said. “We got a lot of vets on this team that have been through a lot and know how to play so I’m definitely learning from them. Chris Paul, Paul Pierce. Just trying to take it day-by-day trying to learn as much as possible so that when I get back on the floor, I’ll be ready.”

With Stephenson in Indianapolis, you can’t help but have mixed feelings of sadness and embarrassment for him. He made a poor business decision and is now paying the consequences.

The lesson: Don’t ever underestimate the importance of fit, and working for people that believe in you. (Larry Bird was his biggest fan.)

To top it all off, a group of about a dozen Clippers folks went to dinner downtown at Ruth’s Chris Monday night. After their meal, they played credit card roulette, where everyone involved puts a credit card in a bag and the one chosen pays for everything.

Lance lost, and then in a SnapChat video said it set him back “10 racks.” (That’s $10,000.) Was it really, I asked him?

“You don’t want to know. Close to 10 racks.”

Jeff Ayres (Pendergraph), who’s on a 10-day contract with the Clippers said it wasn’t nearly that much.

“If it was 10 grand, he would’ve ran out of the building so fast,” Ayres joked.

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