After the Los Angeles Lakers signed LeBron James to a four-year, $154 million deal, they shortly added Lance Stephenson to the fold on a one-year, $4.5 million contract.
Considering their history in the Eastern Conference, it was an interesting signing by Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka.
With the 2018-19 NBA season approaching, Stephenson finally revealed why he blew in his new teammate’s ear during the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat, via The Score:
“A lot of serious moments in the season where we were talking junk and going at each other. I was really trying to get him mad. Like, really trying to win the game, trying to get him unfocused. And I was trying anything. For you to do something to somebody and they don’t respond, they keep continuing and playing hard, it’s like, how do I, I was just trying to find stuff. I don’t regret it, but sometimes I look at it like, ‘Why did I do that? What made me do that?’ LeBron was such a good player, you know. I was trying to do anything to get him frustrated. … It’s going to be different, just trying to be friends with LeBron.”
Similar to Ron Artest teaming up with Kobe Bryant during the 2009-10 season, there is likely a mutual respect between James and Stephenson build on the foundation of competition. While James is the best player in the game today, Stephenson never backed down against him.
As James is looking to lead the Lakers to another championship, Stephenson needs to show he can be successful outside of Indiana with this being his seventh team in just five seasons.
Along with Stephenson, the Lakers ultimately signed JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, and Michael Beasley. With eight new players and their different personalities, the Lakers will have the tough task of quickly learning how to play together if they want to make a serious run in the Western Conference.