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Mark's Mailbag: Lance, Danny, and Winning Streaks

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

November 10, 2013

Editor's Note: Have a Pacers-related question for Mark? Want to be featured in his mailbag column? Send your questions to Mark on twitter at @MarkMontieth or by email at askmontieth@gmail.com.

Q. Hey Mark, I like the way that Lance Stephenson has played early in this season. He has definitely improved his ball-handling and shooting and confidence. If he can stay healthy and maintain production (14 pts. 4 rbs. 4 ast.), what kind of contract do you think he might receive? Who can he be compared to at shooting guard? Tony Allen? Gordon Hayward? Is he a point guard? I can’t figure him out, except to say I like him as a Pacer.

- Greg

A. I agree, Stephenson is difficult to define as a player. He has some point guard skills, but at 6-5 and 230 pounds he's just a few inches short of qualifying to play power forward. He's a shooting guard who hasn't traditionally been a good perimeter shooter. He hit one-third of his three-point attempts last season, but hit half of them through the first seven games.

He's a hybrid, but he fits well with fellow hybrid George Hill in the backcourt. Stephenson's penetrating and passing skills allow him to take some of the playmaking load from Hill, and Hill's shooting ability takes some of the burden off Stephenson.

It's really difficult to compare him to anyone else. If he were three inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he'd be LeBron James. I'm not saying he has that skill level now, but he could develop a game as complete as James' if he continues to develop.

He's going to get paid, isn't he? He told me after the season's third game that he plans to re-sign with the Pacers next summer. Even if it means taking less money? “I'm going to stay with the Pacers,” he said. His agent probably doesn't like hearing that, and a lot can change between now and July, when free agents can begin signing new contracts, but I would be surprised if he gets away. He appreciates Larry Bird's loyalty to him, and Bird has a soft spot for underdogs such as Stephenson. It's difficult to imagine him letting Stephenson get away.

But it's going to take some money, and the Pacers aren't going to have a lot of it to spend without going over the luxury tax. I guess it's possible Herb Simon would make an exception if neccesary, as he's done before when the Pacers had a championship contending team, but more likely some moves will have to be made to allow it to happen. They might not be popular moves – perhaps packaging a reserve or two in a trade for a second-round draft pick to clear space – but they could be necessary. Next season, the Pacers will be paying Paul George about $18 million, Roy Hibbert nearly $15 million, David West about $12 million and George Hill $8 million. There's not a lot of room left for a major contract, so it will take some creativity.

Maybe it's time for another telethon – to save Lance Stephenson.

Q. Is Danny Granger coming back anytime soon?

- Jennifer

A. Frank Vogel said last week that Granger would rejoin practice this week – presumably on Wednesday, if the team takes off Tuesday following the game against Memphis on Monday. There's no announced timetable for his to return to game action, though.

Q. What's the longest win streak in franchise history? Is it eight?

- Matt

A. The longest streak for the NBA Pacers is eight, but it's 12 if you include the first four playoff games in 1994. The longest streak in the ABA was 11, set by the 1972-73 team that went on to win the third championship.

Q. Why keep Danny Granger at this point? He's obviously not needed.

- Kyhle

A. Really? If he's healthy and able to play near his pre-injury level, he could be very valuable. The Pacers have proven they can win without him, but it never hurts to add a quality player. And what if another wing player becomes injured?

The Pacers have to pay him, and he doesn't have much trade value if he's not healthy, so it only makes sense to keep him.

Q. The last time the Pacers started 5-0 was the 1971-72 season. The starters were Neto, Brown, Lewis, Daniels and who?

- Pete

A. Seven players rotated in the starting lineup that season: Bob Netolicky, Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and Rick Mount. Brown sometimes started at guard so that Netolicky, McGinnis and Daniels could start together. It all depends on matchups. The lineup for the final round of the playoffs, when the Pacers beat New York for the title, included Brown, McGinnis, Daniels, Lewis and Mount.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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