Not long after rumors suggested that the Indiana Pacers were not currently interested in bringing back Lance Stephenson for a third go-round with the team, it now appears that the organization might be looking forward to signing him after all.
According to Bleacher Report, Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium tweeted on Sunday that Stephenson is in “strong talks” on a potential deal with the Pacers. As the 29-year-old is wrapping up his one-year contract with the Liaoning Flying Leopards of the Chinese Basketball Association, he will reportedly need to receive clearance from both his CBA team and the FIBA before he can agree on any contract terms.
Since his NBA stint with the Los Angeles Lakers ended last year, Stephenson has been putting up big numbers for the Flying Leopards, averaging 26.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in 29 games, while playing alongside another former NBA journeyman, forward Brandon Bass. As the CBA’s regular season ends on March 12, this could give Stephenson a chance to return to the league before the postseason begins and potentially strengthen the Pacers’ roster as they prepare for the playoffs.
Aside from the Lakers, Stephenson played for six other teams since entering the NBA as a second-round pick in 2010. He was, however, most productive in his first run with the Pacers, as he suited up for the team for four seasons, making the Eastern Conference Finals in 2014. He also returned briefly to Indiana in 2017-18, playing all 82 games but mostly coming off the bench during this second stint. Per Basketball-Reference, he has career averages of 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists, and shooting percentages of 44.4 percent from the field and 31.5 percent from three-point range.
As suggested by Bleacher Report, the Pacers, who are currently ranked fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 39-25 record, could use someone like Stephenson due to his ability to “[step] up” in the playoffs. In 2014, he averaged 13.6 points in postseason play, while in 2017 and 2018, he combined to average 12.5 points in a total of 11 playoff games. His playmaking ability was mentioned as another reason why he could be a good addition to the team.
If Stephenson rejoins the Pacers, he will become the latest NBA veteran to sign with a playoff contender this late in the 2019-20 campaign after going unsigned — or playing overseas — in previous months. Over the weekend, it was reported that center Joakim Noah will be signing a 10-day deal with the Los Angeles Clippers, who remain at second in the Western Conference with a 43-20 record after Sunday’s loss to the Lakers.