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Indiana Pacers

Can Lance Stephenson thrive as a point guard in the NBA?

Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) gestures during the second half of Game 3 in the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals playoff series against the Miami Heat, Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Lance Stephenson’s return to the Indiana Pacers in March might be bigger than Stephenson or the Pacers ever imagined. According to the Indy Star’s Gregg Doyel, the Pacers are currently considering rebuilding the team with Stephenson as the starting point guard.

A few months ago, Stephenson was a journeyman bouncing from team to team. Now, he is back with the team that drafted him and considered one of the primary building blocks to kickstart a new direction for the franchise. That new direction will be without perennial All-Star Paul George, who already informed the team that he’ll be opting out of his contract in 2018. The team could also be without Jeff Teague, who is expected to test the free-agent market this summer.

The Pacers really don’t have many options outside of Stephenson.

The 26-year-old has spent his NBA career as a shooting guard and small forward, but he isn’t a stranger to dribbling the ball up the court. Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is banking on Stephenson’s 10-pound weight loss adding a bit more explosiveness and fluidity to his game.

Handling the ball in certain situations is one thing, but being tasked with orchestrating the offense on every possession is something else entirely. It’ll be a major adjustment for Stephenson to settle in as an ultimate distributor and decision-maker.

But if his words in April ring any truth, this is a challenge he would gladly accept to help out the organization that gave him a second chance.

“When your teammates believe in you, and the organization believes in you, the game becomes easy,” Stephenson told the Indy Star. “I should have never left from the beginning. It was a hard road, an emotional ride, but I stuck with it. It humbled me a lot. It showed me that every team is not for you. I just stuck with it, never gave up, stayed in the gym and believed in God. God had my back. Now I’m back home.”

Stephenson is back home with a renewed importance to the Pacers organization.

He averaged 16 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in the playoffs. His presence wasn’t enough to help the Pacers compete against the juggernauts of the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers, but it may be enough to maintain some form of a positive outlook for a team headed towards a dramatic makeover.

Even if Stephenson clearly isn’t the long-term solution at point guard, he can still be the short-term answer needed to buying the Pacers some time.

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