Can Lance Stephenson reclaim his career with the help of Phil Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks?
In recent days, there has been talk that the New York Knicks could be interested in signing Lance Stephenson to a contract worth the veteran’s minimum. It’s not surprising that Stephenson remains a free agent.
His long history of antics have left teams wincing at the notion of signing him.
In 2008, Stephenson, accused of groping a female high school student, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in July 2009.
His amateur status was investigated by the NCAA for participating in a documentary called “Born Ready” and for touring the Under Armour factory while visiting the University of Maryland.
Stephenson’s history chased NBA teams away. Even the woeful Knicks passed on him in the 2010 NBA draft, leaving him to be picked up by the Indiana Pacers in the second round.
Less than two months after being drafted, he was arrested for allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs.
His on-court antics are both a gift and a curse. Not many players have enough of a nasty streak to disrespect LeBron James. His defense and edginess are valuable, but he has a tendency to go overboard, which drives coaches and teammates out of their minds.
Stephenson just can’t get out of his own way and its caused a premature downward spiral in his career. His defensive prowess and fearless attitude made him a key cog in the Pacers’ bid for a championship in 2013-14.
However, his on-court antics displayed during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals jeopardized his free agency bid.
He signed a three-year, $27 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. He couldn’t fit in, sat on the bench, and got traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. His finest moment with the Clippers? He and Josh Smith slap boxing while on the bench.
Stephenson was eventually traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s slipped from a player on the cusp of stardom to an NBA journeyman on the way to his fourth team in two years.
Can Jackson Tame Him?
You know whats crazy? Lance Stephenson might be exactly what Phil Jackson craves. Jackson loves reclamation projects and has a penchant for taming the wild.
He lassoed Dennis Rodman and turned him into a key factor in three Chicago Bulls championships. He managed the challenging personality of Metta World Peace, who hit the game-winning shot against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
He then scored 25 points in Game 6 to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to the 2010 NBA Finals.
World Peace won a championship ring that year, then famously auctioned it off for charity.
Jackson also likes big guards and he might see Stephenson as the kind of wild card player that will give the Knicks a bit of an edge. He could be the tough guy; the bully who will protect the stars.
There would be a ton of questions surrounding a Stephenson signing. With the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings and Joakim Noah, the Knicks already have personalities that demand attention.
Stephenson would add another one.
Can Jeff Hornacek manage so many personalities? Can Stephenson play within and learn Hornacek’s system? He had a hard time fitting in Charlotte.
Do the Knicks have enough leaders to keep Stephenson in check?
To answer these questions the Knicks will need a serious dose of zen. Hopefully, Jackson can provide it. If he signs Lance Stephenson, Jackson’s presence and leadership will be needed.
Signing Stephenson is not the kind of veteran leadership I believe the Knicks need.
Although, if Jackson, along with Anthony, Rose and Noah can offer the leadership and mentorship Stephenson needs to help him mature, he can be a steal for the Knicks.