Arrests: 1. Games played: 0
Lance Stephenson, welcome to the NBA.
Long before the former high school phenom suits up in his first game for the Indiana Pacers, Stephenson managed to score his first assault charge as a professional.
The 19-year-old Stephenson was arrested early Sunday morning after allegedly pushing his girlfriend, Jasmine Williams, down a flight of stairs. According to a report in the New York Daily News, after Stephenson pushed her down the stairs, he “slammed” his girlfriend’s head against the step. He was reportedly upset because Williams wasn’t answering her phone.
Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Kevin McGrath officially charged Stephenson with felony assault with a weapon, menacing, harassment, and criminal possession of a weapon (the step) with intent to use.
Pacers team president Larry Bird said he was surprised that Stephenson was available when Indiana selected him with the 40th pick in the NBA Draft. Larry, now do you understand why he was available in the second round?
Despite being über-talented at Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, Stephenson had a history of off-the-court issues. In 2008, Stephenson was charged with a Class B misdemeanor for allegedly groping a woman’s breasts and buttocks over her clothing on the campus of Lincoln High School. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct as part of a plea deal and received three days of community service and counseling.
While Stephenson avoided jail time, it was enough of a red flag for a majority of high-profile college basketball programs that decided to pass on offering him a scholarship. The all-time leading scorer in high school basketball for the state of New York shouldn’t end up at an average University of Cincinnati program.
Luckily for Stephenson and the other knuckleheads in the league, NBA commissioner David Stern has yet to drop the hammer on a player for getting in trouble with the law. Overshadowing Stephenson’s arrest was Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who is facing felony drug possession charges after he was arrested on Sunday afternoon for carrying in excess of 20 grams of marijuana.
If this were NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, please believe Stephenson and Haslem would already have a trip booked for 280 Park Avenue to discuss the incident.
The tired cliché of innocent until proven guilty applies with Stephenson but Bird and Pacers need to enforce a no tolerance policy. If Stephenson is found guilty, Stern needs to suspend him and use Lance as an example in order to send a message to the fellow rookies and future NBA superstars. Whether they like it or not, kids idolize and look up to athletes. Allegedly physically assaulting your girlfriend is not the message the Pacers organization or the NBA wants to send to their fans.
“The news of Lance Stephenson’s arrest is very disappointing to the Pacers franchise and to me personally,” Bird said in a statement on Monday. “We have worked very hard to bring in players that are excellent representatives of our franchise, community and state both on and off the court. Our commitment to this goal is too strong to permit the actions of one individual to reverse all of the positive strides that have been made as a franchise over the last couple of years or to hurt the image of the rest of the players on our team. Everyone in the Pacers organization remains strongly committed to our players representing Indianapolis and the state of Indiana in a positive way and will not condone behavior that reflects poorly on this franchise and community.”
Moving out of the spotlight to a city like Indianapolis after spending the year living in Cincinnati might be the best thing for Stephenson at this point in his life. All of his personal issues off the court to date seem to revolve around his hometown of Brooklyn.
“I’m just going to try to stay focused,” Stephenson said on Tuesday. “I’m going to talk to him [Larry Bird], see how he feels about it and I’m going to move forward from it.”
Hopefully for Stephenson’s career, he moves forward in the right direction.