Since Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo were suspended for their altercation with Chris Paul, Lance Stephenson has been among those who stepped up for the Los Angeles Lakers.
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Following a near triple-double performance against the Phoenix Suns, Stephenson made key plays against the Denver Nuggets and finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
“Just being in attack mode,” Stephenson after the Lakers’ 121-114 win. “Trying to create for my teammates or create for myself; taking what the defense gave me.”
With Kobe Bryant in attendance and sitting next to general manager Rob Pelinka, Stephenson admitted to being excited over their brief conversation. “It’s a blessing for him to be at the game,” Stephenson said.
“That’s one of my favorite players. He was like, ‘Good game’ after the game, so I was a little hype.”
In the eyes of LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma, Stephenson brings energy regardless of the situation. “Listen, when Lance steps on the floor, he’s a spark for us,” James on his former rival. “He doesn’t have to score to make an impact.”
“He’s been huge. Brings that energy factor, comes in the games and gets the crowd gets into it,” Kuzma added. “We really feed off of that.”
For Lakers head coach Luke Walton, the consecutive impressive performances from Stephenson are hardly a surprise. “He’s been great all season. I mean, whether he’s playing or not, he’s sharing,” Walton said.
“He’s bringing energy; he’s on the court, he’s bouncing around. He’s on the bench, he’s yelling at his teammates. We hit a little bit of stall and Lance picked us up, hit that big back-to-back three-point shots.
“His competitive spirit is one of the things we really love about him. It’s something he brings to our group that we’ve needed. He was on full display with that tonight. I think I even saw an air guitar for the first time this season, which is exciting to our coaching staff.”
As Ingram and Rondo are close to returning, Stephenson should still have a similar role even when they are again active. While the 28-year-old has been ball-dominant during his career, he has been able to find a balance and has energized his teammates on both ends of the court.