Lance Stephenson has a bit of a checkered past. And if “checkered past” is too strong, he at least has a reputation.
Well, as the Los Angeles Clippers are finding out, that reputation isn’t necessarily reality.
“You know what? He’s been great,” Clippers guard and two-time Sixth Man winner Jamal Crawford said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s weird because from afar, I didn’t know him aside from playing against him a couple times a year and that was pretty much it. And like you said, you hear things, you kind of see things. But getting in the locker room, he’s actually been a pleasant surprise. He’s a fun-loving guy. He’s young. You forget how young he is.”
Stephenson is 25.
“He’s always joking, he’s always having a good time,” Crawford said. “And on the court, he’s competitive. He really is. He’s not backing down from anybody. I think he brings a toughness to our team – even though, like I said, he is young. He’s been in the playoffs before he knows what it’s like. I think being in this structure and in this culture, having good vets around him will definitely help him out, help his career blossom. We’ve been pleasantly surprised as players because we didn’t know much about him besides the stuff you read, but having him in the locker room, he’s a funny guy and he’s fitting in great.”
The Clippers are hoping Stephenson can help the franchise win an NBA title, especially after a string of disappointing postseason flame-outs. In 2013, the Clippers were up 2-0 on Memphis and lost four straight. In 2014, the Clippers were tied 2-2 with Oklahoma City and up by seven in the final minute of Game 5; they lost that game and then the series. And, in 2015, the Clippers were up 3-1 on Houston before losing three straight.
“I think we’v learned, especially last year, you can’t take your foot off the gas at any point,” Crawford said. “You can’t relax. We played San Antonio and they had our full attention, as Doc said. We were aware of everything they were doing. It was a slugfest. Then we played Houston without Chris to start the season and we go up 3-1. We’re like, ‘Okay, we’ll be playing Golden State next round.’ And we kind of stopped driving the car, so to speak. And when you do that, it comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened to us last year. If anything, you have to learn how to finish. I think Paul Pierce bringing that, he’s a champion. He has a championship pedigree. He’s made big shots, he’s been a Finals MVP, he has all the experience in the world and he’s a guy at this point in his career he just wants to help us win. He has no hidden agendas. Nobody on the team does. He just wants to win. I think it was huge getting him and especially getting DeAndre back.”
Indeed, Jordan is back, Blake Griffin is back, Chris Paul is back, Crawford is back, J.J. Redick is back, and Pierce, Stephenson and others have joined the mix. The roster, in the words of Crawford, is “pretty sick.”
“We do not have any excuses,” he said. “We really don’t. I think we’ve grown up. And if you look at the last two champions with Golden State and San Antonio, we were the last team to actually put them out of the playoffs. So we’re not far away. We just have to get it done.”