Source: Stephenson on Mavericks' radar
JUL 07, 2014 2:42p ET
DALLAS - Lance Stephenson has spent the last few months in '10-foot-pole' territory when it comes to the Mavs. But new information - from inside Dallas' thoughts on him and from the NBA free-agency landscape - shed new light on a possible connection. Has Dallas softened its stance on Lance? The scoop inside:
The story of Lance Stephenson and a connection with the Dallas Mavericks is actually three different stories, stories that deserve to be told from three different perspectives.
Perspective 1: The 10-Foot Pole
This has undeniably been Dallas' long-standing position on the Pacers' gifted-but-off-kilter guard. It dates back to May 6, when DB.com first wrote the story using that "10-foot-pole" phrase.
Now, along with that phrase - signifying the distance Dallas planned to keep from Stephenson - we wrote this:
Could "The Culture of Dirk" repair these problems? Could the mentorship of coach Rick Carlisle, who has had such a positive impact on guys like Monta Ellis, do the same? And how many millions do you wish to bet on that outcome?
Nevertheless, our implication was clear: While Dallas could blow other bidders out of the water by making Lance "Dirk's heir" in Dallas, money isn't the issue here. The controversial guard ha already turned down a five-year, $44-million contract from Indy (which has tiptoed toward moving on with its signing of C.J. Miles) contract, the two sides remain far apart on a deal, according to sources close to the situation.
If he thinks five years and $44 million is "low-balling" him, what will he think if he lands in Dallas as a "bargain"? How disgruntled will he be as a potential All-Star being underpaid?
And yet Chris Broussard's Monday mention of Stephenson have "drawn interest from the Dallas Mavericks" is true on some level. A source tells FOX Sports Southwest.com:
"He's on the (Mavs') radar. He's always been on the radar."
Perspective 2: The Culture of Dirk
The 6-5 Stephenson averaged a career-high 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists last season. He led the league in triple-doubles. He is a defensive stopper. And at 23, he's just a kid... who made just $930,000 last season.
On-the-radar Stephenson becomes even more so assuming LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony don't sign with Dallas. (Here's the latest on Dallas and LeBron and here's the latest on Dallas and Melo.) Chandler Parsons, Luol Deng and Trevor Ariza are also on Dallas radar - and figure more prominently than Lance does.
But beyond the dollars and cents and talent and availability, there is an issue of chemistry.
The Pacers, loaded in so many ways, collapsed from the inside-out in part because of issues in that locker room. There was a publicized conflict between Stephenson and Evan Turner. We are told there were conflicts between Stephenson and star Paul George. Now the conflict may exist between Stephenson and Larry Bird's front office.
And in our casual conversation with Dirk Nowitzki, he reveals some concern for making sure someone like Stephenson doesn't ruin Dallas' locker-room chemistry.
Dirk absolutely deserves a vote here; the responsibility for keeping his team pulling in the same direction has always largely fallen on his shoulders.
But, as one Mavs source tells me on the subject of Lance-as-knucklehead: "We've had worse."
The Mavs are shooting for better; Chandler Parsons, for instance, happens to be a Dirk favorite. But yes. They've had worse.
Perspective 3: Rick Carlisle's milk
"(Stephenson) is immensely gifted," one Eastern Conference team scout tells us. "Any coach would be tempted to want to help him reach that ceiling."
This is indeed how most coaches think. They are "fixers."
Mavs coach Carlisle gave Delonte West a lot of rope before the end. The coach applauded DeShawn Stephenson for his loony nature. Rick worked hard to re-make the careers of O.J. Mayo two years ago and Monta Ellis last year. He truly looks at the positives of teaching and mentoring the likes of sleepy Sam Dalembert and pudgy Raymond Felton.
What if the Pacers' chemistry problem was their fault and not Stephenson's? Or what if it was Lance's immaturity, something a player can grow away from? In Indy, even in the playoffs, Stephenson demonstratively protested coaching decisions, defied team instructions in regard to how to deal with defending LeBron, and made a fool of himself by blowing in James' ear, an act as ineffective and it was inexplicable.
In Game 7 of Round 1, Lance actually approached the scorers' table in the middle of the game to inform them that they'd improperly shorted him one rebound for which he wanted credit.
This all is still a 10-foot pole away from happening, even with Lance assuredly "on the Mavs' radar." Don't Stephenson and Ellis play the same position? How close to the tax line will Indy be if they keep him? Are their concerns about Stephenson as a perimeter shooter and turnover machine? When other Deng/Ariza suitors lose out, won't Lance be elevated on their "radar," too?
It's instructional to know that while Rick Carlisle values "team" above all else, Lance Stephenson's presence on Dallas' "radar" may be tied to another Carlisle value.
"Listen," Rick will say, "you can't have a whole team made up of milk-drinkers."