Winning sure makes people happy. The Indiana Pacers are enjoying their best start as an NBA franchise and four-year guard Lance Stephenson is showing vast improvement as he adds raw energy and now a refined shooting touch to one of the best starting fives in the league. So, of course it makes sense that Stephenson — who becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer — would have a positive outlook regarding his future with the team. Stephenson wants to stay with the Pacers, and his wish could very well come true. Although the Pacers have roughly $60 million in salary committed for the 2014-15 season —including huge contracts belonging to Paul George and Roy Hibbert — when Stephenson hits the open market, Indiana can theoretically offer him a deal up to five years while still avoiding the NBA luxury tax. “I wouldn’t want to leave a good team like this. I definitely would love to come back,” Stephenson said. “I just love the city. I love the team. I love who I play with and I feel like we’re a young group and I think we should stick together.” Through five games this season, Stephenson is averaging 16.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Although it may be early, the numbers far exceed his career averages (6.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.3 apg). Even more appealing, Stephenson has fixed his inconsistent jump shot and is now shooting 53.8 percent from 3-point range. While effortlessly stepping back into a starting role in the absence of veteran forward Danny Granger (strained left calf), who could be out two more weeks, Stephenson has formed a dynamic duet with George. Before Wednesday’s victory over Chicago, Stephenson and George ranked second in most points among Eastern Conference teammate duos behind only LeBron James and Chris Bosh. In the final year of his rookie contract, Stephenson will make $1,005,000 this season but could become an in-demand free agent by the summer. Still, he has made his preferred destination clear while keeping his faith in the Pacers front office.
Free-agent-to-be Lance Stephenson positioning himself for lucrative deal from Pacers in 2014
Indianapolis Star | Nov 8