MIAMI (AP) — Lance Stephenson's ear-blowing antics are over.
That was the order the Indiana guard got from Pacers president Larry Bird, who took issue with Stephenson's antics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. Stephenson was caught by television cameras blowing into the ear of Heat star LeBron James. That led to a conversation between Stephenson and Bird.
"He said, 'Don't do it again,'" Stephenson said Friday, recalling his talk with Bird. "So I'm not going to do it again." Stephenson's non-play-related words and stunts have largely become the story of the East finals, starting from when he talked about the health of Dwyane Wade's knees before the series. In Game 5, not only did he blow into James' ear, but also walked into a Heat huddle while Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was talking things over with a couple players.
And on Thursday, Stephenson was quoted in NBA-provided transcripts referring to Heat guard "Cole Norris," instead of the player's actual name, Norris Cole. "It'd be good just to play basketball," Pacers guard Paul George said. "When you've got antics and stuff being bigger than the game, then of course it's going to raise some eyebrows. But here, we just want to play basketball. It's the conference finals. Everything else can just kind of sit on the side."
Stephenson has created some Heat-related storylines in each of the last three postseasons, starting when he directed a "choke" sign toward James during the 2012 East semifinals. Earlier in this series, Stephenson said that when James talks to him during a game, the four-time MVP is showing signs of "weakness."
But Friday, hours before the Heat and Pacers were to play Game 6 of the series, Stephenson said, "I don't think I can get into his head. He's the best player in the league. He knows how to play through that stuff."
Wade and fellow Heat star Chris Bosh said they wouldn't stand for one of their teammates creating such a stir. "If they're focused on that," Stephenson said, "that's good." The Heat were taking a 3-2 series lead into Friday night, and were one win away from ousting Indiana for a third straight season. And given that it's now win-or-else time for the Pacers, Indiana forward David West said he'd encourage Stephenson to do whatever it takes in Game 6.
"That's a part of who Lance is," West said. "I didn't even know (what he did) until after the game. Obviously, we're in a must-win situation. So everything is a go in my opinion. We've got to try to win this game. We've got to try to do whatever we can to get whatever type of advantage we can get to try to win the game."
Stephenson said multiple times Friday that he's simply trying to have fun and help the Pacers win. But when asked by a reporter after Indiana's shootaround practice "How does blowing in the ear contribute to winning?," he didn't respond for several seconds.
With that, a member of the Pacers' media-relations staff told Stephenson to go shoot, and he walked away.