Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson is a conundrum. He's capable of brilliance in pressure-packed playoff situations, and he's prone to decisions, with the ball in his hands or with microphones in his face, that leave his teammates wondering what he was thinking. A few months ago, he was an All-Star candidate, and a report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Mike Wells indicates that feeling snubbed from the team changed him.
Teammates reportedly noticed Stephenson being selfish and trying to prove an individual point, and he sometimes wasn't present during late-season team meetings when Indiana was teetering. He'll be an unrestricted free agent in July and, at 23 years old, is due for a big payday that the Pacers are wary of giving him, according to ESPN:
Despite Stephenson's tantalizing talents, sources said there are many in the organization who don't think it's a good decision to give him a rich, long-term contract, given the way he has acted during the season.
This is a tricky situation. Stephenson was a second-round pick in 2010, which is why he's hitting unrestricted free agency so soon. Players as talented and young as him usually aren't available without their original teams being able to match offers. Indiana is short on depth, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which he walks for nothing and the team finds a way to make up for it in the short term. The ideal situation for the Pacers would probably be to keep him, with a contract not as rich as it looked like it'd be earlier in the season.
That would be done with the hope that any lingering chemistry issues could be smoothed over, and no one outside of that circle can be sure of how significant those issues were. Other teams might still be willing to offer Stephenson a lot of money, so Indiana has a big decision to make.