On the day of their biggest game of the season, the Pacers on Friday morning were again riddled with questions about some of their unusual gamesmanship tactics in this series, Lance Stephenson’s primarily.
Stephenson said Pacers president Larry Bird told him he should not blow in a player’s face, as Stephenson did with LeBron James in Game 5.
“Whenever he says something to me, I take that to heart,” Stephenson said. “He definitely kept me on the right path my whole career. He said don’t do it again, so I’m not going to do it again.”
Nevertheless, Stephenson continued his shenanigans during Game 6, putting his hand over James’ face during a first-quarter stoppage. James told him, “Don’t [expletive] touch me.”
Stephenson has said his peculiar behavior — including the blowing incident and poking his head in a huddle with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Norris Cole — are done to enhance the Pacers’ chances of winning.
Asked Friday how blowing in the ear contributes to winning, Stephenson wasn’t permitted to answer. A Pacers media relations official ended the session and told Stephenson to “Go shoot.”
For all his efforts to distract James in this series, Stephenson conceded Friday morning: “I don’t think I can get into his head. He’s the best player in the league. He knows how to break through that stuff. I don’t think it bothered him at all.”
Meanwhile, Pacers coach Frank Vogel sidestepped a question about shouting at Shane Battier and Cole as they shot three-pointers earlier in the series.
“I don’t know if I’ve done that or not, to be honest,” Vogel said. “I don’t remember if I’ve done that in the past. In the spirit of the game, I’m talking constantly.
“If the ball is over on the sideline, I’m getting in our guys’ ears to pick up their pressure. Anything we can do to enhance our defensive disposition, we try to do. We’re just coaching the game.”
TNT’s Charles Barkley, on Dan Le Batard’s ESPN Radio show, said he doesn’t “have a problem” with Stephenson blowing in James’ ear but “it’s silly and childish. It’s not like he upset LeBron. It’s just stupid.
“Come on, you’re a grown man. He’s a very good player, but stuff like that takes away from him as a player. He’s not distracting anyone.”
And Barkley cracked: “Somebody blows in your ear, you’re supposed to kiss them next.”
Barkley also said Stephenson has “cost himself money” in free agency this summer. “You have to ask yourself: If you give him a lot of money when he’s acting like that, we won’t be able to control him at all.”
Barkley, on other topics:
• He blamed “that old idiot Skip Bayless” — the ESPN commentator — for making an issue of James passing to Chris Bosh late in Game 5 instead of taking the last shot: “Your star doesn’t have to take the shot all the time!”
• He reiterated that “those Miami fans are fake and phony. … Those fans aren’t going to do anything to me. I’ll beat them … if they jump in my face.”
THIS AND THAT
• With Chris Andersen returning after missing two games, Spoelstra placed Michael Beasley on the inactive list, along with Justin Hamilton.
• TNT’s Reggie Miller, on Stephenson’s Game 5 antics: “I never would have done that to Michael Jordan, who was the best player in the game. You never want to tug on Superman’s cape. … I respect what he was trying to do by trying to get under the skin of LeBron. Will it work? Probably not.”