Vancouver Grizzlies General Manager Stu Jackson said yesterday that he has no idea what first-round draft pick Steve Francis will announce at a news conference Friday at the Takoma Park Recreation Center. Jackson also declined to speculate.
However, Jackson did admit that Francis has made it clear that he does not want to play for Vancouver, which chose the former University of Maryland star second overall in the NBA draft.
"What [Francis and his agent Jeff Fried] have indicated to me is no secret," Jackson said via conference call. "All along Steve has had some personal issues as well as some business issues with being a part of our club. We've made good faith efforts in trying to address those. He has had some concerns about being away from his family and he does have some issues.
"We have done everything that we possibly can. Not only myself but our entire organization has bent over backwards to try and address every issue that Steve has. All we're trying to do is hand him over $9 million and make him a very well-known basketball player."
Francis could not be reached to comment. Fried did not return phone messages.
Francis, through a New York-based public relations firm, on Tuesday announced the scheduled news conference. Numerous media inquiries prompted Jackson's conference call.
The Grizzlies have been trying to trade Francis, Jackson acknowledged, but not simply to accommodate the rookie. Vancouver only will trade Francis if what it gets in return will improve the team, Jackson said.
Published reports have Vancouver trading Francis to Detroit in a seven-player exchange that would send Jerry Stackhouse and Loy Vaught to the Grizzlies. There also has been talk of Francis being dealt to Toronto, possibly for shooting guard Doug Christie, among others.
"I've had many conversations since the end of the season with almost every team in the NBA regarding a potential trade involving a number of our players and Steve Francis is one," Jackson said.
If no trade is suitable, Jackson said Francis will have to choose whether to play for Vancouver, sit out the season and re-enter the draft next year, play overseas or in a secondary league in the United States.
Jackson said he is also aware of adverse effect Francis's attitude could have on other players.
"I don't ever want to be in a position to have to sell people on the idea of coming here," Jackson said. "Then I've got to sell them continually on the idea of staying. I want to get a group of men who would like to work together toward a common goal and that goal is to win basketball games."
As far as recent contact with Francis or Fried, Jackson said he has spoken to Francis within the past month and that he had a heated discussion with Fried Tuesday afternoon. Fried never mentioned that Francis planned to hold a news conference.