FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
Lance Stephenson’s infantile behavior elicited a mix of reaction Thursday, from his coach defending some of his conduct, to Ray Allen ridiculing it, to Chris Bosh asserting that Stephenson’s antics “take away from the sport.”
Start with Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who had no issue with his mischievous guard eavesdropping in a private discussion between Erik Spoelstra and Norris Cole during Game 5.
“People are in my huddle all the time,” Vogel said. “Every player in the NBA does that. That’s nothing.”
Asked if he wishes he could have said something to Stephenson at that moment, Spoelstra said: “Look, some players do that. He’s not the only one. Jason Kidd used to do that.”
And Stephenson claimed Cole --– or “Cole Norris,” as he called him –-- “does the same things, gets under your skin, but in a different way.”
But Vogel said Stephenson blowing in LeBron James’ “face probably crosses the line. We want to be a competitive team but we don’t want to cross the line.”
As Dwyane Wade said: “Our teammates wouldn’t do that. That’s not how we are.”
Pacers president Larry Bird told USA Today that he also was bothered by Stephenson blowing in LeBron's ear.
On Thursday, Bosh and Allen took issue with Stephenson’s conduct in general.
Allen called it “buffoonery” and said the blowing incident “shows bad character on his part.”
Allen said Stephenson hasn’t remotely gotten under the Heat’s skin and “for most of us, it’s laughable. It makes him look bad. It’s something he’s got to clean up."
Allen, by the way, also said with the way Stephenson is playing defense, "there’s a point where you will be getting fouled because he’s trying to get too close. The referee will call it.”
Bosh said Stephenson’s bizarre behavior "takes away from the sport. We’re talking about his antics, not the real purpose of the game. It takes away even from Paul George’s performance…
“I’ve been watching the game since I was a kid and I’ve never seen anything like that. What can you do? He’s his own man and he doesn’t have any effect on what we do….
“It’s funny. It seems surreal that it keeps happening. We can use it as fuel, especially for LeBron…. We’re professional. There’s a such thing as sportsmanship. You have to respect the game.”
Bosh said Stephenson’s behavior should be treated “like your kids. If they throw a tantrum on the floor, just ignore them and they’ll stop.”
Bosh said if a teammate behaved this way, he would tell him: “Just stop!”
James again tried to avoid the topic Thursday, saying: "I'm not going into a game worried about Lance or his antics."
Stephenson said Thursday his antics “just come out of the blue” and that blowing in James’ face “just happened. Just having fun. I have a lot of respect for him. You’ve got to do whatever it takes to get under him in the game because he’s that good. So if I got to do all that stuff, I’m going to do that to win the game.
“The whole series, I felt like he was comfortable and nobody really bothered him.”
Does Stephenson mind being cast as a villian? “Just trying to help my team win, whatever it takes.”
James’ decision to pass to Bosh for what was a missed three-pointer late in Game 5, rather than drive to the basket, generated plenty of debate, as expected. We have no issue with it because James was struggling (1 for 5 in the paint, 2 for 10 overall) and because Bosh has hit that shot many times. A couple points to consider:
1. During the Big Three era, including regular season and playoffs, Bosh is 4 for 10 on shots in the final 10 seconds of games, with the score tied or the Heat trailing by three or fewer.
Conversely, James is 9 for 30 on those shots, including 2 for 5 in the playoffs as a member of the Heat and 1 for 6 during the regular season this year, according to my analysis of year-by-year numbers on NBA.com.
Wade is 4 for 17 on those shots in the regular season and postseason during the Big Three era, Mario Chalmers 0 for 6.
And Allen is 2 for 3 on those attempts in his two years with the Heat, including the biggest shot in franchise history late in Game 6 of the 2013 Finals.
If you cut the sample size to potential game-tying or go-ahead shots with less than five seconds left, as ESPN did, Bosh is 3 for 7 since joining the Heat (3 for 4 on threes) and James 3 for 18.
2. Roy Hibbert said James driving would have been the higher-percentage shot and that’s accurate in theory.
Keep in mind that James shot 65 percent within five feet of the basket against Indiana when Hibbert was in the game this season, and shot 78 percent within five feet of the basket overall in 2013-14, according to NBA.com data.
But opponents are shooting 42 percent against Hibbert at the rim in the playoffs, according to ESPN.
Bosh, conversely, shot 33.9 percent on three-pointers this season and 40.7 in the playoffs.
Even so, I'm not among those with any great objection to how LeBron handled this, considering a second defender came over to help on LeBron on that play; because LeBron was having a dreadful night; and because Bosh has been the Heat's most effective clutch shooter over the past couple of years.
### Please see the last post for more Heat notes from Thursday night, including a Chris Andersen update and why Chris Bosh said everybody was especially ornery today (even beyond Wednesday's loss).
### Dolphins tight end Michael Egnew said new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is splitting him out as a receiver more often than Mike Sherman did. That’s the role Jeff Ireland envisioned for him. Ireland, by the way, will not get a job with the Seahawks after working as a draft consultant for them.
### The dynamic between Mike Wallace and the Dolphins coaching staff --- which teammates have raised concerns about in the past --- definitely has improved, with Joe Philbin making a point to say how happy he is with Wallace’s attitude and others praising his work habits.
### While UM and UF are working on scheduling a home-and-home in basketball (in Gainesville in November, in Miami the following year), UF athletic director Jeremy Foley warned this week that a neutral site football game “would not be a renewal of the series” and that nothing is imminent: “At some point and time, it may make sense.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz