Brooklyn Nets’ All-Star Kyrie Irving returned to action on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers. The season debut of the star guard was highly anticipated. Irving did not disappoint, tallying 22 points on 9 for 17 shooting, to go along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. But it was Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, a native of Brooklyn and respected veteran in the league, who stole the show in the first half of the game. He scored 20 points in just six minutes coming off the bench, shooting 88% from the field in the first two quarters. However, he only scored 10 points in the second half finishing with 30 points on the night. But his impact was felt through the locker room of both the Pacers and Nets, as Kyrie Irving described in his postgame press conference.
“It hit me in the first quarter watching Lance Stephenson doing his best rendition of his show”, Irving said per SNY. “I told Lance during the game ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen you have a 20-point quarter. His debut here in Indiana, we knew it was going to be a big deal, but we didn’t know it was going to come like that. And we all took it personally when we came out in that second half.”
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Jim Jones Gets Candid on Lance Stephenson, Kyrie Irving
Irving grew up in New Jersey and played in well-known New York tournaments like Rucker Park in Harlem. Likewise for the Brooklyn-born Stephenson. Thus, the matchup was extremely exciting to witness for New York City natives. In an Instagram Live with Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports, Jim Jones, a member of The Diplomats (a rap group based in Harlem) talked about watching the two NYC legends go head-to-head.
“It’s pretty dope. It’s like a Brooklyn, New York reunion. I think it’s a good head up. I’m excited to see Kyrie back and as you know Kyrie is one of the illest people to touch the ball, you know? That’s in his area, in his bloodstream. Rod Strickland’s his uncle so he’s cheating with that one!” Jones said.
“I used to sit back and be like, ‘How is this boy’s handle like THIS? This is not right!’ and then somebody told me, “You know, Rod Strickland is his uncle…” and then I was like, ‘Oh a’ight…’ because Rod Strickland had the illest handle on the whole New York Knicks roster to THIS day. To this day, NOBODY has a handle like Rod Strickland. Period.”
Rod Strickland, of course, was also a New York native. Born and raised in the Bronx, Strickland was drafted 19th overall in the 1988 draft to his hometown Knicks. Like Irving and Stephenson, he is considered a legend among Rucker Park players.
Stephenson Sounds off on Return to Indiana Pacers
Stephenson signed a 10-day contract with the Pacers after playing six games with the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season, making this his third stint with the Indiana Pacers. The team drafted him in 2010 with the 40th overall pick. He was set to sign with Indiana in the middle of the 2020 season just before the bubble, but the league enacted their rule against overseas players playing in Orlando. At the time, Stephenson was playing for the Liaoning Flying Leopards in China.
“I’ve been just working out two years, just waiting for this moment,” Stephenson said during a halftime interview in the Nets win over the Pacers on Wednesday per CBS Sports. “I’m so happy to be here at home.”
One thing everyone can agree on is that the NBA is a lot more entertaining when Stephenson is playing.