The Indiana Pacers’ numerous and troubling lockerroom and on-court issues reportedly came to a head on the eve of the NBA Playoffs, as Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner are said to have traded blows after practice before teammates broke up the fight. Per the Yahoo! Sports:
On the eve of this Eastern Conference series, the wobbling No. 1 seed punctuated its final playoff preparations in a most self-destructive way: Two Indiana Pacers dragged a cursing, cut Evan Turner out of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court, untangling him from a practice-floor fistfight with teammate Lance Stephenson.
Turner hadn’t been the first Pacer to lose his temper with Stephenson these tumultuous several weeks, and Stephenson’s relentlessly irritable nature suggests Turner won’t be the last. These scrapes aren’t uncommon in the NBA, but this confrontation had been weeks in the making and that reflected in the ferocity of the encounter, sources said.
“This stuff happens, but the timing wasn’t ideal,” one witness said.
These two guards have struggled together since the deadline deal brought Turner from Philadelphia to Indiana. Suddenly, Turner is learning to play without the ball in his hands, and Stephenson is relearning the balance of passing and shooting. Truth be told, there were probably Pacers willing to let Stephenson and Turner beat the dribble out of each other. Still, Luis Scola and David West finally grabbed an enraged Turner and separated Stephenson.
“We’ve been on the ropes a little bit,” West said Tuesday night. “Every team goes through that. But I thought we did a great job of dealing with whatever issues we had. The great thing about this group has always been that we’re very open with one another, always been able to get through the ups and downs of a long NBA season.”
“We know that Larry [Bird] and Donnie [Walsh] and [Kevin Pritchard] put a team together to try and win a championship this year,” Roy Hibbert said Tuesday night. “We know that’s the goal, and we know that’s the kind of talent we have here. It’s up to us now to do it, to get it done.”
These aren’t the Pacers of the relentlessly patient Donnie Walsh anymore, and rest assured: Bird won’t let a collapse go unaccounted. Frank Vogel’s coaching job is on the line, and perhaps Hibbert’s future with the Pacers, too. This is Indiana’s championship time, and the stakes are immense.
Bird made two significant deals to fortify this title run – Turner for Danny Granger, and the signing of Andrew Bynum – and those haven’t worked for him. Bynum could be done for the season with his knee problems, and perhaps everyone underestimated how much Granger had left in him, and how awkwardly Turner would fit into the Pacers.
The Pacers let go of a free agent-to-be they wouldn’t have re-signed for a young, former No. 2 overall pick whom they hoped they could re-sign to a long-term deal.
“I’m just trying to make the right plays here,” Turner said. “Some nights I get two shots, some nights I get 10 or 12. I’m trying to get acclimated.”
Turner had one shot and just 11 minutes in Game 2, but the Pacers won and that lifted a burden off everyone in the locker room. Turner insisted “nothing happened” with Stephenson in practice on Friday, but he’s in a tough spot to cop to the truth. He doesn’t want to be a disruption, but rather a solution. Turner’s trying to fit into these Pacers, trying to prove he belongs on the court for a championship contender.