Lance Stephenson was not a household name when the upstart Indiana Pacers took on the Miami Heat in the 2012 playoffs. By the time the reserve Pacer guard made his infamous choke sign at LeBron James during the teams’ second round series, our Eric Freeman rightfully labeled Stephenson as a “benchwarmer.” Even in the days before Danny Granger’s knee woes and Paul George’s ascension to stardom, Lance just wasn’t a guy that stuck on your mind.
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That doesn’t mean the incident didn’t rankle the Heat, who were being pushed to the bring by an unheralded Pacer squad in what looked like Miami’s second straight season of failing to win a championship with LeBron James on board. Indiana matched up well with those Heat teams, and by the time Stephenson pulled his noise with LeBron, the Pacers were up 2-1 with potentially two more games to play in Indianapolis.
In a talk with Danny Granger on SiriusXM on Friday, Granger relayed that several Heat vets actually tried to confront Stephenson in the bowels of the team’s Miami arena. Via the Score:
Danny Granger - who was a member of the Pacers at the time - told SiriusXM NBA Radio on Friday that Miami players Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem, and Juwan Howard wanted to teach Stephenson a lesson for taunting their MVP. According to Granger, the Miami trio went looking for Stephenson in the Indiana locker room during an off day in the series.
"They were protecting LeBron. They thought Lance had done something disrespectful to him," Granger said of the motives behind the players' actions.
Granger went on to say that security stopped the players before they could enter the Pacers' room, ending the situation before it could escalate further.
Lance Stephenson can probably throw down, but he would have been in some trouble when faced with a triple-tower beef from Andersen, Howard, and (especially) Udonis Haslem.
Stephenson played just one minute in the infamous “choke” game, missing his only shot as Indiana won by 19 points. Following the near-confrontation he did not play in Game 4 of the series, an Indiana loss, and his gesture toward LeBron may have turned the tide in the series. Miami won three games in a row to close things out as it gained momentum and confidence in what turned out to be a championship season – the first of LeBron’s career.
Stephenson played just seven minutes all series, missing all five of his shots and turning the ball over twice. His role would change in 2013 and 2014 as he grew into his gig as Miami’s top irritant, playing a large part (for better or worse) as Indiana battled Miami in both Eastern Conference finals in those seasons, prior to moving on a to a star-crossed career with stints in Charlotte, Los Angeles, and now Memphis.
He suits up alongside Andersen in Memphis now, averaging 12 points and four rebounds in 23 minutes a contest in six games with his new team. James and the Heat went on to win another title in 2013 prior to LeBron’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Howard stayed on as the Heat’s assistant coach, while Haslem will retire soon and may see his No. 40 retired into Miami’s rafters.
Any confrontation would have most certainly resulted in suspensions for the three Heat big man, and though Howard played very few minutes Andersen and Haslem were major member’s the team’s rotation. Trading those three for the loss of Stephenson – who, again, had played just 72 seconds in the series at that point – would have been a major on-paper defeat for Miami.
Still, you get the feeling that the team probably decided it was worth it, in order to send a message about his yapping.
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