Prodigal Son Returns: Houston Signs Steve FrancisSteve Francis has spurned possible opportunities to play for Dallas, the L.A. Clippers or Miami in order to return to the site of his best NBA years, Houston. The Rockets will reportedly officially announce on Friday that they have signed Francis to a two-year deal that ESPN's Chris Broussard says will be worth "roughly $6 million." Of course, money is hardly an issue now for Francis, who just pocketed about $30 million when Portland bought out his contract.
Point guard has hardly been a strength for the Rockets in recent seasons but there is good reason to believe that adding Francis to the mix does not improve matters at all. Francis is what Denver Coach George Karl calls a "ball stopper"--a player who overdribbles the ball without creating good shot opportunities for his teammates. That is the last kind of player that the Rockets need to pair with Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, particularly if new Houston Coach Rick Adelman intends to run the kind of passing game offense that he employed when he coached in Sacramento. At best, Francis will be a poorly fitting third wheel who at some point will complain about his minutes/shot attempts and at worst he will turn into a major distraction. McGrady is marvelous as both a scorer and a creator and the ball should be in his hands as much as possible; it does not benefit Houston at all to have Francis dribbling the ball until it is flat in a vain--in both senses of the word--search for an open shot for himself. When McGrady does not have the ball then Yao or newly acquired forward Luis Scola should have the ball at the top of the key, where they can shoot open jumpers or pass the ball to cutters. Look at Francis' track record: he puts up decent individual numbers (although he did not even do that in his last stop, in New York) but his teams don't win and he frequently becomes a distraction because he complains or misses practices or feuds with his coach.
Francis supposedly talked to Adelman, McGrady and Yao before Houston signed him. Everyone may be all smiles now but it will be interesting to see how many happy faces there are by mid-season. The only way that this can work is if Francis takes it upon himself to act differently than he did in his previous stops; McGrady and Yao are model citizens and Adelman is a proven coach, so the onus is on Francis to get with the new program in Houston. If Francis can do that then he can salvage his declining reputation.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:42 PM