Asked about his trash-talking with Pacers guard Lance Stephenson in Game 3, LeBron James said Sunday: “One thing I’m not going to do is give you all a storyline with LeBron and Stephenson.”
But Stephenson gladly did it an hour later, saying the fact James responded to his trash-talking in Game 3 “is a sign of weakness.”
Said Stephenson: “He never used to say nothing to me. I always used to be the one that say, ‘I’m going to get under you. I’m going to do something to get you mad.’
“Now he’s trying to do it to me. So I feel like there’s a weakness. I feel like I’m doing something right, and I’m getting under his skin.”
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James said earlier in the day that he never instigates trash-talking: “I’m not much of a talker, but… I can get involved in it and am still able to keep my head.”
Does trash-talking make him more engaged? “Sometimes,” James said. “Eastern Conference finals, the competition is already high. You don’t need it.”
But Dwyane Wade said James got “closer” defending Stephenson after the trash-talking. “It gives him a challenge, a game within a game,” Wade said.
Considering Wade’s comment, isn’t it counter-productive for Stephenson to trash-talk James?
“I’m going to say whatever it takes,” Stephenson responded. “I’m not afraid of him if he’s going to be more aggressive on defense on me. I’m going to keep taking it to him.”
James and Stephenson have a history; Stephenson gave James a choke sign after James missed a free throw in their 2012 playoff series.
“You don’t want it to be counter-productive, to give him a spark,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Stephenson’s yapping.
But… “I don’t think it matters one way or the other, if he’s silent or if he’s talking,” Vogel added. “Both guys are playing as hard as they can. I’ll say [to do] whatever he feels he’ll be at his best.”
The little brother
Stephenson said the Pacers are like the “little brother” tired of being beaten by their “big brother.” Vogel used that analogy with his team Sunday.
“These guys have beat up on us so many times,” Pacers forward Paul George said. “It’s about time we get angry.”