Jonathan Abrams did a great job telling Lance Stephenson's story in depth a few months ago, but Stephenson has been good enough during the past few weeks to earn a second profile. With that in mind, let's dive into the Lance Stephenson Experience by sketching out the bare essentials.
Lance Stephenson is a 22-year-old swingman for the Pacers. He was drafted 40th by Indiana in the second round of the 2010 draft, after a storied high school career, a scandalous recruiting process, and an underwhelming freshman year at Cincinnati. Larry Bird and the Pacers then shocked the NBA by giving him a four-year, $3.35 million contract that summer. What looked like a major risk then has paid off this season, with Stephenson helping Indy recover from Danny Granger's absence, becoming one of the most improved players in the NBA, and holding a contract that suddenly looks like a steal.
He's a defensive stopper with wildly streaky offense and wonderfully questionable decision-making, all while hurling himself all over the court at 150 mph. He's also in the middle of a series where he's antagonized almost everyone on the Miami Heat, and been effective enough to inspire "Jesus Christ" reactions across the entire NBA.
Larry Bird and Bill Simmons discuss Bird's legendary Celtics career, why he almost retired early, and who he thinks is the best player in the game today. The original podcast aired on February 7, 2013.
Larry Bird explains to Bill Simmons how injuries hobbled the Celtics of the late '80s, and says that his injuries were so bad that he would have retired and handed the Celtics over to Len Bias had Bias lived to play in Boston.
There’s no greater celebration of what professional basketball has become than All-Star Weekend. There will be some fierce dunks, canny dribbling, and face-melting passes, sure, but I’m mostly talking about the spectacle, the off-court everything else, all the new sneaker prototypes and fiber technologies that will be debuted, the trumped-up drama-turned-actual-drama of the 3-point contest, all those wondrous images of awestruck celebrities and athletes cradling each other on the sidelines during a Historic Dunk Performance. It’s like the Super Bowl, only nothing actually matters. No other league has come close to mining this sweet spot between sports and entertainment quite like the modern NBA, such that a pregame concert featuring Ke$ha or a prime-time competition featuring stars showing off “fundamentals” doesn’t seem all that strange. It didn’t have to be this way. Here are just some of the pivotal and slightly prophetic moments of All-Star Weekend history that we found on YouTube:
When I gave last night’s Thunder-Nuggets game one of my coveted DVR slots, I knew I was probably recording a schedule loss. Denver was on the second night of a back-to-back, having traveled from Denver to OKC after an overtime win over Portland. Oklahoma City was coming off a rest day, and Serge Ibaka was back in the lineup after missing two games with a chest contusion.
Still: Games between these teams have massive entertainment potential, and there is some chippiness dating to an underrated first-round series — a five-game OKC win — in 2011.
Oklahoma City indeed blew away Denver with terrifying ease — transition buckets, enough offensive rebounds to push George Karl into using his two-center lineup, a festival of Russell Westbrook jumpers, and Kevin Durant being mean for a bit before doing some distributing. Durant is mean every night, but Westbrook’s shooting has been a bit of a wild card. His shooting numbers are slowly trending the right way after a horrid start, but he’s still at about 35 percent on mid-range shots after hitting about 41 percent last season, per NBA.com. The Thunder are so good at this point, on both ends of the floor, that on nights Westbrook makes even half his jumpers, the other team may as well forfeit.
"This is the most surprising thing that has happened to me in basketball. I never been fired before for basketball reasons. This is the first time. When I was in Toronto, I was trying to buy a team and I left. When I was in Indiana, Larry Bird told me that he liked what I was doing but he was closer to Rick Carlisle. The whole thing in New York was crazy. This is the first time someone told me that I was being fired for basketball reasons."
When it comes to failure, I get a little nostalgic. So I decided to track back and relive some of the greatest hits (but the opposite of hits) of Isiah Thomas's executive and coaching career.
LeBron James is not the Incredible Hulk or Tupac. He does not thrive on hate. He is not fueled by rage. I don't think he's fueled by love, either. He plays basketball like an Apache helicopter and bites his nails. We're not going to know what basketball means to this guy until the (still inevitable, I think) day he wins a ring. Maybe he'll have a Jordan-crying/KG-screaming moment. Maybe he will just clap baby powder in our faces. Maybe he'll just bite his nails some more.
On Tuesday night, in a 94-84 Celtics win over the Bobcats, Boston's Paul Pierce passed Larry Bird for second place on the Celtics' all-time scoring list. It came on a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, and followed a string of rattled 3s and crowd gasps earlier in the game. When he hit the milestone, Mike Gorman, the Celtics' play-by-play guy, let out a crisp "GOT IT" — a phrase he traditionally reserves for game-winners or knockout shots.
Anthony Davis had 16 points, six boards, and four blocks as no. 1 Kentucky easily topped no. 7 Florida 78-58. After the game, Davis cornered his teammates in the locker room. "Guys," the freshman said, "when I screamed 'Welcome to Painesville!' after every block, did it sound cool? Was it clear that it was a Gaineseville reference?" They mostly looked at the floor. "Sure, dude," said Doron Lamb. "It was awesome. I really have to go, though."
I don't know what my exact Bucket List is for BS Report guests, just that Larry Bird, David Letterman, Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Murphy are leading the way. While we were in Indianapolis last week, we were offered the chance to sit down with Larry Legend for 30 minutes which, of course, I stretched to 40 without blinking. Afterward, a few of my friends asked me if this was the hardest interview I ever did — you know, because he's my favorite athlete and the Basketball Jesus and all — but actually, it was one of the easiest. How could I ever be prepared to interview ANYONE more than Larry Bird? Like I needed to study for this one? I have been preparing for this podcast since 1978. Anyway, it was a fun 40 minutes, I could have kept going for another four hours, and I actually — gasp — learned a few new things about his time with the Celtics, which I didn't expect since I thought I knew everything.
What's more attractive than Larry Bird in a blond perm/afro, a tight, green Celtics uniform and a white cardigan sweater? Wait, I know THREE blond perm/afro'ed Larry Birds in tight, green Celtics uniforms and white cardigan sweaters! Can somebody find the Double Rainbow guy so he can scream, "Triple Larry! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh! What does it mean?????"