Addition by Subtraction: Portland Cuts Steve Francis Loose for a Cool $30 MillionOn Wednesday, the NBA officially established the salary cap for next year, enabling the formal completion of previously announced free agent signings, including Rashard Lewis joining Orlando, Chauncey Billups re-signing with Detroit and Grant Hill becoming a Phoenix Sun. Another anticipated move also happened: the Portland Trail Blazers decided to pay Steve Francis at least $30 million just to go away. That may not be enough to feed Latrell Sprewell's family but Francis and his agent Jeff Fried reportedly felt that Francis' windfall was worth celebrating. I suppose that it is only natural to be happy about getting $30 million for not working but Francis is just 30 years old and is considered expendable by a team whose point guards include Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez and rookie Taurean Green. That is an embarrassing loss of status for Francis, the 2000 co-Rookie of the Year who made three straight All-Star teams (2002-2004).
Portland acquired Francis as part of the draft day deal that sent Zach Randolph to the New York Knicks. Francis had two years and $34 million remaining on his contract but now he is an unrestricted free agent. The Clippers, who desperately need a point guard considering Sam Cassell's age and Shaun Livingston's devastating injury, will reportedly sign Francis. Has there ever been a less fitting NBA nickname than "Stevie Franchise"? He has decent career numbers (18.4 ppg, 6.1 apg, 5.6 rpg) but Francis has never been and will never be anything remotely resembling a legitimate franchise player; in eight seasons he has made exactly one playoff appearance, a first round exit in 2004 with the Rockets. He has delivered some highlight-reel quality plays during his career but overall he is one of the least aesthetically pleasing NBA players due to his penchant for overdribbling the basketball as if he were trying to drill a hole in the court and discover underground oil reserves. As George Gervin told me in 2004, "Dribbling that ball five, six, seven, eight seconds is a travesty. What are the other four guys doing, standing there watching? A lot of the guys pound the ball today, but we used to move the ball around and when we got it, we took that first step and made something happen. So we (retired legends) hope and pray that the guys understand that you really need to give the ball up. If you're not going to make your move, give it up, go back and get it. Don't just stand there and pound it." Gervin wishes that today's players emulated the great Roger Brown, who understood the value of pivoting and a great first step.
Francis may very well be a fine human being and it may be true that off the court he got along well with Yao Ming but Yao's offensive game has thrived since Francis left Houston; Francis' departure from Orlando had a similarly positive effect on Dwight Howard. Granted, a case could be made that those two young players would have improved anyway but the Houston and Orlando front offices both decided that having an overdribbling point guard is not part of the blueprint for long term success. In light of this, it is understandable why Portland had no interest in putting Francis on the court with LaMarcus Aldridge and number overall draft pick Greg Oden. It will be interesting to see how much Elton Brand enjoys playing with Francis if Francis does indeed join the Clippers.
posted by David Friedman @ 2:22 AM