All-star guard Steve Francis says that he harbors no bitterness after the Houston Rockets packed him off to the Orlando Magic last week in exchange for Tracy McGrady.
Traces of resentment, however, seep out as the 6-3 Francis offers his version of events leading up to the biggest trade of the summer so far.
Near the end of last season, Francis said he approached Rockets' coach Jeff Van Gundy and questioned him about persistent rumors that the Rockets intended to trade him.
"He told me face to face that I wasn't getting traded," said Francis on Friday during a clinic he hosted at the Kennedy Recreation Center in Northwest for Washington D.C.-area youth. "[Van Gundy] said don't even worry about it."
Since the deal was finalized last week, McGrady and the Magic's management have also slung insults at each other. McGrady questioned the competency of Orlando's first-year president John Weisbrod. In Orlando, Weisbrod was asked whether McGrady was "his kind of player" and he responded "no."
Francis and McGrady were the biggest names in a seven-player trade that turned messy when Francis raised objections to the deal. He had led the Rockets to the team's first playoff appearance in five seasons and the prospects for the future looked bright. But then came word of the trade and Francis was faced with playing for the 21-61 Magic, the team with the worst record in the NBA.
Weisbrod saved the deal by convincing Francis, who played for the Maryland Terrapins and grew up in Takoma Park, Md., that Orlando was the best place for him. He played up the team's No.1 draft pick, high school star Dwight Howard and how the club intended to obtain tough players who were committed to winning.
In an obvious swipe at McGrady, who averaged 28 points a game for the Magic but has been criticized for hogging the ball, playing too little defense and for lacking competitiveness, Francis said that Weisbrod told him "he liked hardnosed guys who competed hard day and night and who just don't come out and play offense."
"He said he wanted guys who play both sides of the court," Francis said.
The meetings between the two teams next season are likely to be grudge matches.
"The Rockets are definitely a rival now," said Francis. "I'm not mad at Tracy McGrady. I'm not mad at Jeff Van Gundy. But like I said, it's a business and I respect that business."
"Two days that come that are important: the 1st and the 15th. I'm going to still ball, you know what I'm saying. And in Orlando, those two days are still going to come and we're still going to win."