06/19/2010 3:04 PM ET
Stephenson says he's 'born ready' for NBA
Lance could get selected by Knicks, Nets
By Adam Zagoria / SNY.tv
Lance Stephenson spent much of his offseason working on his shooting and dropping body weight. (AP)

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Wearing a gray Knicks warmup jersey and his "Born Ready" tattoo on his right arm, Lance Stephenson pronounced himself ready to play in the NBA.

"That name is the definition of me. I'm 'Born Ready' for any competition, anything on the next-level stage, or any stage. So I like that name and I'm going to live up to it," the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Stephenson said Saturday after working out at the Knicks' Westchester campus.

Asked if he was 'Born Ready' to step into the NBA," Stephenson added, "Of course."

The Knicks have no first-round picks in Thursday's NBA Draft and own the No. 38 and 39 selections in the second round.

The Nets, for whom the Coney Island native works out on Wednesday, select at No. 27 in the first round and No. 31 in the second.

Stephenson is projected as a late-first or early-second round pick, but his agent, Alberto Ebanks, believes he deserves to go in the first round.

"I don't think there are 30 players better than him in this year's draft," Ebanks said.

First-round picks get guaranteed money, which is critical for Stephenson, who has a young daughter.

"The obvious difference is guaranteed money," Ebanks said. "We're not really worrying about the outcome. We're worried about the process and making sure that we've done everything that we can to go as high as possible. And I think that come draft day a few people will be surprised."

The all-time leading scorer in New York State history, Stephenson led Lincoln High School to four straight PSAL titles at the Garden from 2006-9. He spent one season at Cincinnati and was named Big East Rookie of the Year.

"I always wanted to play in the Garden," Stephenson said. "I grew up playing in the Garden since high school and if the Knicks pick me, I would love to play in the Garden every home game."

Even if that means playing against LeBron James?

"We don't know if LeBron going here, the Clippers, the Nets," Stephenson said. "I don't know, but wherever he goes, I want to play against him...or yeah, with him."

Often criticized for being a ball-stopper and for his penchant for taking on defenses by himself, Stephenson spent five weeks at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas dropping weight and working on his shooting and passing skills.

He said he lost 16 pounds and is down to 220.

As for his game, he said he was "working on my spot shooting, coming off the picks shooting and my ball-handling."

"He's great at what he does, breaking people down," said Andrew Moore of the Impact Academy. "But he's extended his range. He's better shooting off the dribble.

"Shooting off the dribble was something they [NBA scouts] weren't sure he could do but they're pleasantly surprised. He can pull up off the dribble, elevate, bounce and that's something he can do well."

Moore, who has worked with Kevin Garnett, Danny Granger, Corey Maggette, Baron Davis and Al Harrington, also praised Stephenson's improved defense.

"He competes on defense, he can guard twos, threes, ones," he said. "He's a multi-faceted guard."

Samardo Samuels, the former St. Benedict's Prep and Louisville standout, also worked out Saturday for the Knicks and was impressed by Stephenson.

"Lance has always been strong, a big, strong physical guard and that's what he showed today," Samuels said.

There is no denying Stephenson's off-the-court history.

He got into a fight with a high school teammate and was suspended for two games.

Two summers ago, he was cut from the U.S. U18 team by head coach Bob McKillop of Davidson over concerns about his attitude and ability to play within the team concept.

And he pleaded guilty last July to disorderly conduct and agreed to perform three days of community service after being charged with misdemeanor sexual assault for allegedly groping a 17-year-old girl outside of Lincoln High.

"He had a very clean record this year," one Eastern Conference NBA scout said. "He was the scholar athlete of the year at Cincinnati on the basketball team.

"He had no incidents, no problems, no bad body language. He was clean. A lot of people feel he's growing up, he's maturing."

Stephenson has a one-and-a-half daughter, Liara, and he knows that going pro will enable her to have a better life - outside of Coney Island.

"My daughter is the love of my life and when she came in my life, a lot of things changed," Stephenson said. "So for me to get picked in the NBA would change my life and her life also. It will change her life a lot, financially and she'll get whatever she wants, so she'll love that."

Asked where he might live, Stephenson said, "I'll probably move out of Coney Island, go to a quiet place."

Stephenson has worked out for Minneosta, Indiana, Houston, San Antonio, Golden State and Memphis. He said he wasn't able to speak with Knicks president Donnie Walsh or coach Mike D'Antoni during Saturday's workout, but hopes to in the future.

"I watched [D'Antoni] when he was on the Suns and I watched it a little bit on the Knicks and I could tell that he likes up and down and a little bit of set offense," Stephenson said. "So that's the type of play that I play."

As for Thursday night, Stephenson plans to watch the draft "at a nice place" in Manhattan with his family.

"It don't matter where I get picked at," he said. "I just want to get into the NBA and show everybody that I'm ready for the next step."

Adam Zagoria is a regular contributor to SNY.tv. Read his blog at ZagsBlog.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AdamZagoria.
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