After a sophomore campaign that saw just 10 minutes per game and 42 appearances overall, Indiana Pacers’ guard Lance Stephenson has set himself a goal for this Summer League.
“Being a leader on the floor,” the 6-5 guard told HOOPSADDICT.com Tuesday evening. “That’s the big thing. I know I got the game, and I’ve got the physical body, I’ve just got to get people in the right spots to make good plays.”
He certainly took a good step in that direction on Tuesday in Orlando. Stephenson was integral in the Indiana Pacers’ Summer League win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, going off for 28 points. He also played aggressive, physical defense and dished out seven assists to his teammates in the win. Several times, his passes created easy looks around the rim, and he was robbed of an assist more than once by a quick foul that prevented a basket.
“I just let the game come to me,” he said. “I looked for the open spots and tried to get my teammates involved. Just trying to win the game. Everybody played good. That’s what opened things up for me. Everybody was hitting shots and I was trying to get everyone involved.”
Showcasing a jumpshot that has clearly seen some work since Indiana’s season ended in the second round of the playoffs, Stephenson was very efficient from the field, dropping 10 of 14 shots, including 2-4 from three point range. His mechanics were noticeably improved. Where as before his body twisted going into his jumpshot, on Tuesday his feet were squared to the basket on spot up opportunities, and his stroke appeared fluid.
“[I’ve been] working on my jumpshot off the pick and roll,” Stephenson said. “I’m feeling good, I’ve just got to keep working hard.”
The Pacers have a team option on the third year of Stephenson’s contract, so even though he has more NBA experience than many of the players in Orlando, Stephenson has to prove himself equally. If the Pacers decide that he isn’t worth a contract on their team, they can decline his option, sending him into free agency.
But Stephenson certainly doesn’t lack confidence. After draining one three pointer in the face of an Oklahoma City defender, Stephenson skipped backward down the floor and screamed “Buckets!” at the Thunder bench.
His handles appeared fluid, and he looks more comfortable finishing shots around the rim with contact.
“I’m feeling good,” Stephenson said, “I’m trying to show my teammates how to get better. Get in the gym every day, and the game becomes easier.”
Spoken like a true leader.