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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Addition by Subtraction: Portland Cuts Steve Francis Loose for a Cool $30 Million

On 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



At Friday, July 13, 2007 3:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous 2

what happen to steve francis he at one time was a great player know he's a nobody. it went down hill after he left houston. van gundy didnt know how to utilize him. and orlando didnt either send to the lakers or clippers. but really the clippers kobe and him wont work they both need the ball too much. the clippers probably a better fir he could be the point and fit in with maggete and brand with livingston hurt another year.

he'll be motivated to prove he still is a good player where ever he goes.

At Friday, July 13, 2007 3:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Francis never really was a great player. He was a great talent who never fully maximized his abilities. As I said in the post, he overdribbles, which is death for any team's offense. The NBA has a 24 second shot clock and the slightest disruption to offensive flow is deadly. When anyone pounds the ball and pounds the ball, hoping to cross somebody over and score, the other four players cannot be effective. For instance, a "big" flashes to the post and is open, but Francis can't deliver the ball on time because he is running around dribbling the ball. This leads to bad passes, late passes--or no passes and a jacked up shot by Francis. The same thing applies to shooters coming off of screens--they need to get the ball on time and on target. As Steve Kerr once said on TNT (quoting one of his coaches), "One bad pass begets another." Francis has the skills to put up numbers if he plays enough minutes but he does not have the right approach to the game to ever lead a team anywhere.

At Friday, July 13, 2007 10:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous 2

probably right but with houston he seemed great at least. but a knock on him was that he dribbled the ball too much. yao woulda been better with him now but. he just wasn't a vangundy guy. under tomjanovich he was very good.

kindof like micheal vick under dan reeves he played great because reeves let him do whatever even if he made mistakes. now with the last coach they want him too be more of a passer and play the west coast offense style only run when have too. and van gundy wanted francis too be more of a controlled point guard and he couldn't do that.


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