Despite a major famine at the shooting guard position, NBA teams aren’t salivating at the chance of snagging 23-year-old Lance Stephenson via free agency because of his volatile nature. This a league who has had a storied history of looking the other way when it comes to the volatile and criminal conduct of its players, coaches, broadcasters, and business associates. Because of a rocky morality, too often abhorrent histories have only become a problem for the league when enough people start paying attention.
Stephenson is no saint. He was said to be behind much of the Pacers’ theatrics this season. He got into a scuffle with Evan Turner and has a history of abusing women. So, don’t misconstrue this piece as a defense of the dude. More, it’s a call to the league to set down defined parameters on who it is and isn’t willing to work with in the event of glaring trespasses.
Because, for one thing, Stephenson isn’t going to find himself without a job come the 2014-15 season. Either the Pacers sign him to a near-max deal, or other teams sign him to similar or better terms. Strictly on a talent level, Born Ready deserves it. But the surrounding banter of teams looking to disassociate with a questionable personality just screams of navigating a moral high ground they’ve never breached.
Remember, this is a league who has refused to sever business ties with the following active players despite their crimes.
Raymond Felton – There’s a chance that Felton’s contract with the Knicks could be terminated after being charged with three offenses of unlawful possession of a firearm, one being a felony. But past NBA proceedings show that, unless he gets jail time, he might still be in a Knick uniform come next season.
Jonas Valanciunas – Booked for driving while under the influence.
Dante Cunningham – Went to jail twice in span of three days. First, for an incident involving abuse of a girlfriend (which involved strangulation). Second, for making terrorist threats.
Lamar Odom – Was a walking arrest warrant yet made it on the Knicks squad (which speaks volumes about Knicks management).
And the list extends some more when we look at the transgressions of Jayson Williams, Dennis Rodman, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, Isaiah Rider, Marc Jackson, Bobcats assistant coach Bob Beyer, Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, and former player, current Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd. That’s just scratching the surface.
To believe that NBA players–and possibly by extension, NBA staff and associates–are arrested more often than your standard American might not be entirely accurate, but the frequency is no less alarming considering that they have fame, money, connections, prestige, and an army of PR protectors to shield a litany of matters from getting public scrutiny. The fact that the NBA remains a business allows the league to dictate the parameters of its morality but also shouldn’t be allowed to question the integrity of Lance Stephenson when it has shown, time and again, that it weighs integrity on a different scale than talent and trophies.