LeBron James recorded a triple-double as the Lakers staged a late run to hand the Nuggets their first loss of the season, but somehow the biggest story of the night was the play of new Laker Lance Stephenson.
When the Pacers let Lance walk this offseason, it was actually a surprise; Lance was (and remains) beloved in Indiana for a variety of reasons. But it was an even bigger surprise when one of the Lakers first moves after adding LeBron was to bring Lance in, considering one of the most endearing things about Lance in Indiana was his willingness to antagonize LeBron, ear blowing and otherwise.
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) October 26, 2018
So how Lance would co-exist with LeBron was a popular offseason storyline, and it’s definitely something to watch going forward. But last night, with Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram suspended in the wake of the Rockets fight, Lance got some extra burn, and he made it count, on both ends of the Lance Stephenson spectrum.
On the hilarious but bad end, there was this sequence, which might be the most representative Lance sequence ever:
That had it all, from LeBron starting the play by dishing it to a full-speed Lance (and subsequently backing out of the set, likely knowing there was no way he was getting it back), a legitimately nifty, totally unnecessary, and in the end ineffective behind-the-back pass to Javale McGee, a max effort offensive rebound, some gratuitous palming of the ball, and a missed shot leading to a complaint about a lack of a foul call.
Overall, though, Lance had a really solid night, tallying 12 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in 25 minutes of action, perhaps none bigger than this late bucket, part of the Laker run that would put away the game:
Again, that’s a no-pass step-back three from Lance, down five points, with around five minutes left in the game. Stephenson hit 24% of pull-up threes last year. It’s not a good shot, except it is when he’s in this occasional power-up zone Lance can sometimes reach, when he’s fulfilling all the promise that came with his Born Ready background. The problem is he can lose that power at any moment, and Lance is always the last person to realize when it’s gone.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 26, 2018
Last night was good Lance, though, and LeBron even credited him with spurring the team to the win:
We’re going to get to see a lot of the Lakers this season, whether or not they end up being playoff contenders, though it’s hard to see a team with LeBron not at least competing for a playoff spot. (If you want an example of how transformative his presence or absence can be, look at the winless Cavs.)
LeBron himself is plenty of entertainment, but Lance Stephenson getting national airtime on a regular basis is never a bad thing for neutral observers.