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Stephenson Not Backing Down

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

January 31, 2014

After an overnight cooling-off period and a late morning practice session with his teammates, Lance Stephenson had had time to mull over the rejection he received from the Eastern Conference coaches, who left him off the All-Star team in the voting announced on Thursday.

Guess what?

He's still mad. And if they're offended by his in-game celebrations, they're going to have to learn to live with it.

RELATED: Pacers React: Hibbert's In, Stephenson is Out

Stephenson was calm but quietly defiant Friday regarding his omission from the All-Star game, which was widely criticized by NBA analysts and on social media. TNT's studio crew of Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Grant Hill all had predicted he would make the team, with Barkley calling the coaches' voting a “travesty.”

Even rapper Lil' Wayne weighed in on the issue with a tweet:

Stephenson had downplayed the rejection following the Pacers' loss to Phoenix on Thursday, but aired his true feelings on the matter following Friday's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“I'm very upset, but I'm just going to keep working hard and prove everybody wrong every time I'm on that floor,” he said.

It's not unusual for NBA coaches to fail to recognize a player during his breakout year, instead waiting a year to vote him in. Golden State's Stephen Curry was a highly-criticized omission last year, for example. Stephenson, however, believes his breakout season arrived a year ago. More likely, Stephenson has turned off some coaches with his flamboyant celebrations following big shots, by posing, swiveling his hips or pointing into the crowd.

Pacers' coach Frank Vogel has talked with Stephenson about it, suggesting he dampen his reactions “just a little bit,” and in fact believes he's already done so. Stephenson, however, doesn't plan a major change in demeanor.

“No, definitely not,” he said when asked if he would tone down his emotions from here forward. “That’s part of me. If I want to celebrate after a shot, I feel like I (can). I don’t feel like I’m doing it to the coaches (or) I’m doing it to be funny towards them. I’m happy that I made a shot and I feel like I want to celebrate, because I didn't feel like I was going to make the shot.”

Stephenson's teammate, Paul George, favors only a minor adjustment.

“He's just got to be better with it,” George said Friday. “I love when he's playing with that aggressiveness. Sometimes he can tone it down a bit. He's got to be able to channel that to where it doesn't get out of hand and keep it to a minimum.”

One thing appears certain. With all the attention his “snub” has received, Stephenson appears a lock to at least be voted onto the team by the coaches next season if he maintains his current level of play.

“Finally, everybody's on my side,” he said.

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