INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Lance Stephenson is a fan-favorite both while he's playing on the court, and while he's coaching on the court. "Born Ready" thrives in environments like the Pacers Hoops tour camps that the franchise hosts each summer.
His energy and entertaining personality is contagious with the kids as they learn the fundamentals of basketball, from Stephenson and numerous Pacers staff at the Irsay Family YMCA.
But in the midst of the fun of the summer camps, uncertainty lingers about the Pacers' future in the back of Stephenson's mind. The roster looks quite different than it did last season. Gone is the franchise star Paul George. Pike high school's pride and joy Jeff Teague? Also gone. Lance admitted, the news of George's departure was startling.
"I was surprised," Stephenson said as campers shot hoops behind him. "But you know, we don't know his situation and what he was going through and stuff like that. You have to respect his decision. I mean it's tough but that's my brother. Him not being here is going to be tough but I think we have a group of guys that can help us. We just have to look forward."
That will be the key for this revamped Pacers team. Competing in the eastern conference will be quite the daunting task. The Celtics and the Cavaliers are loaded with play-makers and stars that will threaten the Pacers young team all season long. But if you ask "Born Ready" about the future, his optimism shines through.
"I think we're good. We have a lot of great guys and we just gotta come in early and get to know each other and get ready for next year," he said, just a couple of months away from Pacers training camp.
"I feel like with this group of guys, we just have to come together and work hard and figure out what we need to do to win."
Optimism aside, one thing is clear with this new team: Patience will be required.