Francis Looking for Options
Houston Guard Would Prefer Not to Play for Orlando in Likely Trade
By Greg Sandoval and Steve Wyche
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 23, 2004; Page D01
The representatives for Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis tried yesterday to prevent him from being traded to the Orlando Magic by seeking a third team willing to take part in a blockbuster NBA deal, a source close to the talks said.
The Rockets and Magic are close to an agreement to swap Francis and Tracy McGrady, the NBA's leading scorer, in a deal that involves four other players.
But Francis would prefer to play for a playoff contender and his District-based agents, Jeff Fried and Nate Peake, contacted more than five NBA teams yesterday about trading a player to Orlando for Francis should the Rockets and Magic complete their deal, the source said.
Each of the teams contacted by the agents expressed interest in Francis but had to address their own salary cap issues, said the source.
The source said the Rockets and Magic have decided to wait until after Thursday's NBA draft to finalize the trade.
Fried told reporters yesterday morning that Francis was unhappy with the proposed trade and that while the 6-foot-3 point guard and three-time all-star has nothing against the Magic organization, he wishes to continue to play for a playoff contender. The Rockets were 45-37 last season and made the playoffs for the first time in five years.
"[Francis] was in the playoffs and helped the Rockets make a run on the Los Angeles Lakers," Fried said. "He's already been through a rebuilding period."
Francis could not be reached to comment last night, but in an interview with the Houston Chronicle on Monday he said he would miss playing for Houston should he be traded.
"I thought we were really building something, something very good in Houston," Francis told the Chronicle.
"Obviously, that's not the direction they want to go. I still think we could be a very good team."
Should Francis's agents find a way to move him to a team more to his liking, it would be the second time in his career they had done so.
The Vancouver Grizzlies drafted Francis, then a junior from the University of Maryland who attended Allegany Community College before he played in College Park, with the No. 2 pick in the 1999 draft but traded him to the Rockets in an 11-player, three-team blockbuster deal after Francis balked at playing for the Grizzlies.
The prospect of the Francis-McGrady trade -- which would involve two of the NBA's brightest stars -- had officials around the league buzzing.
Under the terms of the proposed trade, the Magic would send McGrady and former Washington Wizards Juwan Howard and Tyronn Lue to the Rockets for Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato.
McGrady is approaching the final year of a seven-year, $93 million contract and in recent weeks he had warned Magic executives that unless they dramatically boosted the team's talent level he would test free agency.
McGrady, 25, won the NBA scoring title last season with a 28-point average but has a reputation for being selfish. The question for the Rockets is how McGrady would fare if he joined Houston center Yao Ming, another of the league's most popular players, in an offense that revolves around the 7-foot-6 Yao.
Should the deal go through, the Magic would get one of the NBA's most consistent guards. Francis joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill this season as the only players in NBA history to average 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in each of their first five years.
But Francis clashed at times this season with first-year coach Jeff Van Gundy. The 6-3 guard reportedly was unhappy about the Yao-first offense.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company