David West: Lance Stephenson Needs to Put 'Big Boy Pants On'

Grant Hughes@@gt_hughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 27, 2014

Mar 26, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) reacts during the second quarter against the Miami Heat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Stephenson does plenty of talking on the court, but after getting himself ejected from the hotly contested tilt between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat on March 26, he had to do a little listening in a postgame team meeting.

Per Scott Agness of Pacers.com:

First of all, it's great to see that "big boy pants" is now an accepted way to say "he needs to grow up" in NBA circles. We have Kobe Bryant to thank for that.

Secondly, Indy held on to beat Miami after Stephenson earned his second technical at the 5:01 mark of the fourth quarter, so the conversation about his temper probably wasn't as intense as it otherwise might have been. To some degree, all's well that ends well.

Stephenson has always been a hotheaded player, one who reached a new level of effectiveness this season by channeling that intensity into useful aggression. In taking on a bigger role in the offense, Stephenson's wild forays to the basket, playground ball-handling and consistent defensive feistiness have been key to the Pacers' growth.

But the downside of his passionate play was evident against Miami. Worse still, the Heat seemed dedicated to egging him on. And when Dwyane Wade succeeded in lobbying for Stephenson's second technical, he reacted with the satisfied smile of a guy who knew he'd capitalized on an opponent's weakness.

It'd probably be best for the Pacers if Stephenson kept his temper in check, especially as they head into the intensified atmosphere of the postseason. But Indy had better be careful not to completely de-fang its most fearsome player.

Raw energy and unchecked emotion are part of what makes Stephenson so valuable. If he becomes too conscious of his demeanor, it might take away some of what makes him so dangerous on the court. After all, before he earned his ejection against the Heat, Stephenson had been playing extremely well, per Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

Ultimately, Stephenson's bombastic personality and short fuse make him vulnerable. Teams are going to target him going forward, much like they try to goad Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins into altercations.

In a way, that's a compliment to the Pacers shooting guard. He wouldn't be a potential target if he weren't highly valuable to Indy's attack.

At the same time, he'll have to tone things down in the coming months if he hopes to be a consistent presence on the floor. I'm guessing that won't be a problem.

Because for all of Stephenson's menacing glares and boisterous trash talk, even he knows when to back down. The warning from West was a civil one this time, but it's never a good idea to make Indy's elder statesman and highly decorated enforcer repeat himself.