Despite some immature antics that rubbed people the wrong way and alienated his teammates, Pacers president Larry Bird told reporters Monday that he hopes to re-sign Lance Stephenson in free agency.
“I think his ceiling is what he wants it to be,” said Bird, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations. “I always want him back. You just don’t let talent like that walk away if you can help it.”
“I was very disappointed that in Game 5, Paul George put on a spectacular display, hit every big shot and after the game, everyone was talking about all the nonsense,” Bird said. “That’s not what we’re about, and it’s not professional.”
“Clearly, he’s a free agent, and I’m certainly hoping that he’s back,” Vogel said, later acknowledging he played the role of team psychologist more this year than any previous year.
Indiana is expected to start the offseason $8 million to $12 million under next season’s projected luxury tax threshold and already has its four other starters under contract. Bird has made it clear the Pacers will not pay the luxury tax.
All of which leads to one question: What are the Pacers willing to pay to keep Stephenson?
“We’ve talked about it briefly, but I haven’t sat down with the owner (Herb Simon) yet,” Bird said. “There’s going to be a price and we’re not going to go over that.”
This process will come down to how much money Stephenson commands on the open market and if the Pacers feel he’s worth the contract and the headache.