Stuckey the anti-Lance for Pacers
Chasing money may well prove costly for Lance Stephenson.
Chasing success could prove to be of enormous profit to Rodney Stuckey.
Just exactly what the change at shooting guard will mean for the Pacers remains to be seen, but this much is clear: in terms of personality and demeanor, Stuckey is the anti-Lance.
Which is to say, he’s never blown in anyone’s ear.
“Not on the court,” he said with a smile Monday. “Maybe to my daughter and my son, but not on the basketball court.”
The Pacers officially announced the signing of Stuckey, reportedly to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum salary ($1,227,985 for a player with seven seasons of experience).
At the moment, Stuckey is penciled in as the starter at shooting guard, the slot vacated when Stephenson turned down a five-year, $44 million offer from the Pacers to sign a three-year, $27 million deal with Charlotte. Because the third season is a team option, Stephenson is actually guaranteed $18 million over two seasons, meaning he left a difference of $26 million on the table to join a team that has averaged 29 wins and totaled two playoff appearances (both first-round exits) in the past decade.
Stuckey, meanwhile, accepted the lowest salary of his career to escape Detroit, a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and join an Indiana team coming off its second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
“I’ve been in Detroit seven years, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of different situations, a lot of different coaches – six in seven years. But you live and learn, you grow from every situation,” Stuckey said. “I just want to thank Detroit for giving me that opportunity to make my NBA dream come true. But it’s a fresh start and I’m excited for it.”
Having earned $33.3 million in his first seven seasons, including $8.5 million each of the past three, Stuckey decided the compensation that mattered most to him could only come on the court, not at the bank.
“I don’t worry about that,” Stuckey said. “Growing up, we didn’t have money, so money’s not really an issue to me. It’s pretty much just starting over and being on a great team, being with a great organization, that’s what I was looking for, that opportunity. …
“Winning. Playoffs. That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’m all about. I want to win, I want to go to the playoffs, I want to experience that again. It’s not fun having the whole summer to do nothing. I just want to play basketball and this is a good opportunity for me to come here and do that.”
When Stuckey entered the league in 2007-08, he joined a veteran Detroit team headed for its sixth consecutive appearance in the conference finals. But that era ended quickly, the team shredded by bad trades (Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson) and constant coaching changes (six in seven years).
The Pistons originally thought Stuckey would succeed Billups as the point guard, but that was asking too much. He bounced from the point to shooting guard, from the starting lineup to the bench, his role changing with each new coach, each new system.
“I hate losing,” he said. “It’s never fun when you’re losing especially when you have to go through it for 82 games. When you win, everyone looks good. Experiencing the Eastern Conference Finals with the group of guys we had – Chauncey (Billups), Rip (Hamilton), Tay (Prince) and all those guys – you never know if you’ll get that chance again.
“You’ve got to take every situation and have fun with it and just live in the moment. I’m excited, man. I needed this fresh start. I think this is all going to be for good and I’m ready to get started with these guys and compete.”
What isn’t clear at the moment is just what role awaits Stuckey. As things stand now, he’s the most likely starter at shooting guard, but that could well change if Pacers President Larry Bird has another late-summer blockbuster trade up his sleeve.
While Stuckey represents a substantial dropoff from Stephenson in terms of sheer talent and 3-point shooting, but not as much as you might think in terms of overall productivity.
Last season was the best of Stephenson’s career, and he posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 14.72, which ranked 22nd among shooting guards.
Last season was among the worst of Stuckey’s career and his PER was 14.04, which ranked 28th.
“I don’t need to come in and do a whole lot,” Stuckey said. “There’s some guys here, Paul George, David West, (Roy) Hibbert, George Hill, I just need to come in and play my role. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it.
“I’m not going to have a problem fitting in with these guys. I’m very humble, I’m laid-back, I’m very respectful. I think we’re all going to get along with each other very well.”
You won’t be able to follow him on Twitter or Facebook. “No social media for me,” he said. “I’m not that kind of guy.”
And you aren’t likely to find any viral videos of his on-court antics blowing up YouTube.
If you’re looking for excitement, look elsewhere.
The Pacers, it appears, were looking for something else.
Here’s what they got, in Stuckey’s words:
“You’re going to get a guy that’s going to come in, work hard and earn everyone’s respect. That’s all I can promise you guys. I’m going to come in and work hard and we’ll see what happens.”