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Bird wants Stephenson back with Pacers

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Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird told reporters Monday that he hopes free agent guard Lance Stephenson will be back with the team next season.

Stephenson, who be an unrestricted free agent July 1, was criticized for his over-the-top antics with Miami Heat forward LeBron James in the Eastern Conference finals.

“I always want him back. You just don’t let talent like that walk away if you can help it,” Bird said of Stephenson at his season-ending press conference.

Bird, who took Stephenson in the second round of the 2010 draft, was unhappy with Stephenson’s attempt to play mind games with James.

Head coach Frank Vogel also wants Stephenson back.

“I’d like to see him back, clearly, but he’s a free agent,” Vogel said. “It’s going to be up to him and (what) the rest of the offers look like, but I’m certainly hoping that he’s back.”

Stephenson averaged 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists this season.

Bird said he will speak with team owner Herb Simon and set a price for re-signing Stephenson.

“There’s going to be a price that we’re going to and we’re not going over,” Bird said. “That’s the way it is and we’ll see what happens here in the next month or so.”

Bird said he isn’t planning a major overhaul of the team and that Vogel will back for another season.

“His job was never in jeopardy,” Bird said of Vogel. “The day it (the report) happened, I went down to Frank and all of his assistants and said, ‘I want you back next year,’ and that was the end of it for us.”