Steve Francis, the former University of Maryland star who was drafted second overall by the Vancouver Grizzlies in June, has called a news conference for Friday at the Takoma Park Recreation Center. The subject of Francis's announcement is believed to be basketball related, although the exact topic is unknown.

Francis's agent, Jeff Fried, did not return phone messages yesterday. Francis and Grizzlies General Manager Stu Jackson were unavailable for comment. Grizzlies spokeswoman Deborah Butt said the Grizzlies were unaware of the news conference and that nothing had been arranged through the team.

A New York-based public-relations firm has been hired to promote the news conference.

Francis, a 6-foot-3 guard, has yet to sign with Vancouver and has been the recent subject of trade rumors. Several NBA sources said the Grizzlies are aggressively shopping Francis, who has let team management know that he would rather not play there.

Though exploring trades, Vancouver's management is concerned about the perception that it may set a bad precedent by trading a draft pick who may not want to play for the team, a source said.

Published reports said a seven-player deal between the Grizzlies and the Detroit Pistons, in which Francis and Detroit's Jerry Stackhouse are the principals, is being seriously discussed. Another league source said the Toronto Raptors also might have had talks with the Grizzlies about trading for Francis.

The Raptors, who had the fifth pick in this summer's draft, wanted Francis but their fellow Canadian team selected him before Toronto got the chance.

On draft day at MCI Center, Francis immediately expressed his displeasure about being selected by Vancouver, burying his head in his hands upon the announcement by NBA Commissioner David Stern. Francis later made unflattering statements about being selected by the Grizzlies, who have been among the worst teams in the NBA the past three seasons.

Francis later said he was disappointed at not being selected No. 1 overall and because he would have to move so far away from his home and grandmother who helped raise him.