It appears that Lance Stephenson's planned NBA comeback might not include a third stint with the Indiana Pacers — the same team where he enjoyed the most success and had his best statistical seasons before bouncing around the league.
Citing a report from Scott Agness of subscriber-only publication The Athletic, Bleacher Report wrote that per league sources, the Pacers do not have any plans to sign Stephenson, who last played for the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association. With the CBA suspending league operations until April due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the 29-year-old former NBA journeyman is still under contract with Liaoning. However, as his agent suggested, Stephenson will "cross that bridge as soon as possible" if he gets a "legitimate" offer to return to the NBA.
Talking about why the Pacers seemingly aren't interested in Stephenson despite wingman Jeremy Lamb's recent season-ending knee injury, The Athletic's Agness wrote that the former second-round draft selection out of Cincinnati would likely require some time to learn Indiana's system and refamiliarize himself with the NBA game.
"The reality is that anyone unsigned right now would have a learning curve, and there's a reason they're without a job," he noted, as quoted by Bleacher Report. "Pacers fans are pushing for a third act from Lance Stephenson; there was even a chant of 'We want Lance' at the end of Tuesday's win, but don't get your hopes up."Stephenson, who leads Liaoning in scoring with 26.7 points per game and also averages 7.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.1 steals for the Chinese team, last played in the NBA during the 2018-19 season, suiting up for the Los Angeles Lakers. A nine-year league veteran, he played four seasons for the Pacers from 2010 through 2014 and returned to the team briefly during the 2017-18 campaign. The well-traveled guard/forward has also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
As shown on his Basketball-Reference page, Stephenson had his best NBA season during his first stint with the Pacers, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 4.6 assists as the team's starting shooting guard in the 2013-14 campaign. That season, Indiana also made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.
Despite his unlikely team-up with former rival James on the Lakers in 2018-19, a return to the Purple and Gold doesn't seem likely as an alternative option for Stephenson should he be able to return to the NBA this season. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Lakers currently have a full roster of 15 players and have mostly been linked to free agents such as former Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters in recent weeks.