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Stephenson Contrite about His Actions

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

March 27, 2014

Lance Stephenson is the spark that electrifies the Pacers and the self-proclaimed hype man of the team. The emotions that he plays with can often be his best friend. But sometimes they can also be his worst enemy at the same time.

On Wednesday night, with the Miami Heat in town for a game televised across the nation, Stephenson’s emotions disqualified him for the remainder of the game and nearly cost the team.

With 5:01 to play, Stephenson had just pushed the Pacers ahead by four with a crafty layup. Before heading the other way, he glared at and said something to Miami's Dwyane Wade, who then threw his hands up at the baseline official asking for a call. Already with a technical foul to his name — which came on a double technical in the previous quarter with Wade — Stephenson was tossed.

Speaking roughly 16 hours after the incident — what he said was the first ejection in his entire basketball career — Stephenson was remorseful and understood that he was out of line.

"I definitely can't do things that cost us games and let me teammates down," he said. "I feel like I'm a big factor to the team and by me getting kicked out of the game last night, it was my fault and it was not being a pro."

Stephenson threw a towel and kicked a wall as team security ushered him back to the locker room. Too upset with himself and the last technical foul, he literally hit the showers. It wasn’t until he heard cheers from team personnel that he ran out to catch the ending.

"If we were to lose, it would've been all on me so I couldn't watch it,” he said. “Once I seen D-West hit the three, I knew it was over. I was like, 'Yeah! Ooh, you saved me!’"

During their usual postgame talk in the locker room, Pacers coach Frank Vogel spent a few minutes addressing Stephenson’s importance and how he’s got to keep his emotions in check.

The conversation wouldn’t stop there.

When he got home, his whole family gave him a hard time about getting kicked out, and then also tried to help him move to a right state of mind in understanding the big picture. He had about a four-hour talk with his father, Lance, Sr.

Long-term, Stephenson's penchant for collecting technicals might be an even bigger cause for concern than last night's ejection. Stephenson is tied with Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant for the second-most technical fouls in the NBA this season with 14 — twice as many as any other Pacers player (Paul George and Evan Turner have seven apiece). Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins has a league-high 15.

Stephenson can be whistled for one more technical foul before trouble sets in. Starting with a player's 16th technical foul, he is suspended for one game for every other technical (so a player would receive a suspension for his 16th technical and then another for his 18th, and another for his 20th, etc.).

"I know I gotta be careful because I can't get suspended and let my team down,” Stephenson said of his circumstance. “I definitely gotta be careful in getting technicals and be smart about how I act after a shot or just being in confrontations where I could get a technical."

It hasn’t been easy on his wallet, either. In total, those 14 technical fouls have taken $41,000 out of his paycheck. Stephenson is in the final year of his four-year rookie contract.

"I know I gotta save my money, man,” he said. “I got to make smart decisions or I'm going to be broke."

For someone that plays with such passion and intensity, it won’t be easy for him to taper his emotions — but he must, at least with his reactions.

"I think I'm just going to save it for the playoffs, man,” he said. “Take my time in these games and don't get frustrated and just play ball until the playoffs so I can get my attitude back together."

Maybe Wednesday night's ejection on a national stage can be a turning point for the 23-year-old. Vogel certainly hopes that is the case.

“I think he's very, very contrite, and I think he understands his importance to our team and felt very badly about letting his teammates down,” he said.

“He’s just got to mature,” said the leader of this team, David West. “He’s got to put his big-boy pants on."

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