VIDEO: Lance Stephenson discusses his return to Indy

Lance Stephenson and his new team, the Charlotte Hornets arrived in Indianapolis around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, more than 27 hours ahead of Born Ready’s first game going the Indiana Pacers. He went to dinner with rookie Noah Vonleh, an Indiana University product, then met up with Paul George at Bankers Like Fieldhouse to watch some of the best college players in the Champions Classic (Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Kentucky).

Stephenson talks with local reporters Wednesday morning.

Stephenson talks with local reporters Wednesday morning.

The Pacers were all he knew as a young pup, drafted after just one year at Cincinnati. It was team president Larry Bird and scout Kevin Mackey who particularly believed in him, and though it wasn’t easy, Stephenson developed in time.

His parents and little brother, Lantz, have joined him in Charlotte and he has sold his home in Wanamaker, Indiana. He’s treating his AAU team, Born Ready Elite, a group of about eight people, to tonight’s game. That’s about it.

[He’s back — Lance Stephenson faces the Pacers for the first time, former teammates expecting something flashy]

He’s expecting cheers. He’s prepared from some boos — only because he’s the opponent and he remembers how passionate this fan base is.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel and a number of Pacers are excited to see him, though tonight, he’s the enemy.

“I’m very fond of Lance and I want to see him to do well in his career and in his life — just not tonight,” he said.

And Vogel believes Stephenson deserves a warm reception.

“I think they’ll give him a big ovation,” he said. “I don’t expect any boos and if there’s boos, then it’s wrong. He’s part of the family. He’s not a Pacer right now but he grew up here, cut his teeth in this league with our franchise and he’s one of us. I expect our fans to really embrace him.”

Prior to morning shootaround, about 20 media members gathered in the visiting coaches’ locker room to talk with the former Pacer about being back in town, facing his friends, whether he has any regret about leaving, and more.

Watch the video above for an excerpt of the interview. I’ve transcribed the majority of the conversation below.

Is there weird for you?

Definitely, yes. Just to be in the visiting locker room. I’ve never seen the visiting locker room, and playing against my old teammates and friends. It’s going to be different.

When you saw what happened with Paul George this summer, did you have any thoughts, ‘What if I would have stayed?’

I mean, I’m sorry about Paul but after I made my decision, I moved forward. I’m happy where I’m at.

You’ve been in town a bit. What have you been able to do, and who have you been able to see?

Actually I just went out to eat and then I went to the Duke and Michigan State game and I actually seen Paul there. We got to talking. Talk about old times and stuff like that but that’s all I did yesterday.

Do you still feel nervous about coming back here?

Before every game I’m nervous. I got the most confidence, but when you get on the floor I’m always nervous. When you are a ball player, if you are not nervous, then you are not a ball player. When I’m on the court, I’m always nervous. Once I go up and down about twice, I get the feeling of the game.

Almost all players have been booed. After giving your blood, sweat, and tears for this franchise, would it hurt to hear boos tonight?

Ah, definitely it’ll hurt. But I’m on the other team so if I hear a boo, I won’t be upset ’cause I know how the fans embrace here and they love me here. I won’t be mad if they boo me but I’ll be a little disappointed.

How much did this crowd energize you in your career?

Ah, man, I played off the crowd when I played here. The crowd got me into the game. It was just fun playing with the fans here because they are really into the game and they really make you go hard by the way they cheer.

On fitting in with Charlotte

It’s real early. I’m just learning the offense, learning the defense, learning my new teammates. It’s been tough. But it’s early and I’m just getting adjusted to my new team.

Have you spoken with Larry Bird since leaving?

I haven’t talked to him. Hopefully I’ll see him today to say what’s up and see how he’s doing. I haven’t talked to him.

Have you built a similar relationship with Hornets owner Michael Jordan?

I got to talk to MJ a little bit. Just to have Larry and Michael Jordan there to help you and guide through the season and show you how to be a champion and show you how to win games, it’s big. Just to have them there and to help you out is a blessing.

What’s your message to Pacers fans?

I grew up here and I learned the game of basketball … I mean NBA here. The fans definitely played a big part. I remember all the memories, when I wore yellow shoes and everybody wore the yellow shoes. When I was dressed up as Sir Lancealot, everybody was in the crowd as Sir Lancelot. I got so much memories with the Pacers. I just want to say thank you for helping me play hard.

Are you confident you made the right call?

I’m confident. I love this group of guys. I feel like we’re bonding together better. It’s going to take time ’cause we got a lot of new players this year and we all are trying to fit in — not trying to overdue it. We’re just trying to play hard. It’s tough so far but I think we’re getting it.

Have your teammates yet learned your game and what to expect from you?

It takes awhile. Even when I was with the Pacers, just the reaction or when I’m going to pass … just the little stuff that I do in the game. It’s tough to learn to play with me. I think these guys are getting it. I’m just working on being a better player with the team.

What’s the biggest thing you miss around here?

I miss the fans and the trainers. I was really cool with the trainers. I was always in the training room talking to them and having fun with them so I definitely miss the trainers.

With Paul George being out, is there any part of you that wishes you were here, that it would be your team?

It wasn’t about being my team. I just wanted to go somewhere I fit in, have fun and win games. It wasn’t about, ‘I wanted to be on a team that’s my team,’ because right now, this is not my team. I’m working on trying to build it to be my team or close to it. We got Kemba, we got big Al. This is actually they team. I’m just trying to come in and help these guys.

One Response to VIDEO: Lance Stephenson discusses his return to Indy
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    November 20, 2014 | 6:00 am

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