Lance Stephenson: 'I can take heat'

ByBrian Windhorst ESPN logo
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

MIAMI -- Lance Stephenson's Indiana Pacers teammates delivered some strong rebukes Monday night after his comments created a potential distraction for his team and may have given LeBron James extra motivation before a vital playoff game.

"You know, Lance is young, and that's a teaching point," Pacers star Paul George said. "Sometimes you've just got to watch what you say. You're on the big stage. Everything we say is going to be bulletin board material. It's really going to have a powerful meaning behind it. We've just got to be smarter with situations and just voicing our opinion sometimes."

Stephenson said prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals that James' trash talk in the series was a "sign of weakness." Stephenson admitted it was an ill-fated attempt to get in James' head, which seemed to only further upset teammates who have grown weary of his on-court antics such as poor ball handling and friendly-fire rebound stealing during the season.

"When you make comments regarding trash talking and just being caught up between another player in a matchup, you got to bring it," George said. "You got to bring it. I'm pretty sure a lot of people were going to be tuned in to see what Lance was going to do because of what he said."

James, meanwhile, answered with his best game of the series, scoring 32 points with 10 rebounds and five assists in the Heat's 102-90 victory to take a 3-1 lead.

Stephenson had his worst game thus far, being held scoreless in the first half while in foul trouble and finishing with a series-low nine points.

Stephenson said prior to the game that no teammates or coaches had come to speak to him about his risky comments, but they were speaking loudly about it afterward.

"We got to stay away from giving guys bulletin board material," David West said. "But again, they're the defending champs. I don't know if they need motivation."

Stephenson, who sat alone at his locker after the game quietly looking at the box score for an extended period, did not immediately offer an apology and said he was willing to deal with the consequences.

"I have no regrets," Stephenson said. "I tried to play ball, I tried to get inside his head and I guess he stepped up and got the win. I can take the heat, I can take the fire."

James, who has some history with Stephenson dating to a sideshow in the 2012 playoffs when Stephenson wrapped his hands around his neck after James missed a clutch free throw, laughed it off.

"I got a smirk out of it," James said. "I don't need any motivation. I'm motivated enough to try to get back to the Finals."

Dwyane Wade, who had 15 points in the Heat's win, said that Stephenson is getting a lesson he learned when repeatedly playing the Boston Celtics in the playoffs earlier in his career. Those games featured significant trash talking from veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett toward James, Wade and Chris Bosh.

"We played Boston a lot and they made it more than just about basketball, and they beat us in the mental game as well as the physical game," Wade said. "We learned that the only way we're going to beat them is if we beat them playing the game of basketball."

Ray Allen, who played on those Celtics teams and is now a member of the Heat, also spoke about Stephenson's trash talking.

"He's a young kid and he's got many more years in this league," Allen said, "and that's a lesson learned for him early in his career."

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