Rookie Steve Francis, the former University of Maryland standout who was drafted second overall by Vancouver in this summer's NBA draft, will not have to play for the Grizzlies after all.

Francis, who has made it clear that he did not want to play for Vancouver, will be traded to the Houston Rockets today in a 10-player deal that involves five players with ties to the Washington area, a source in Vancouver confirmed.

Francis, who grew up in Takoma Park, along with fellow former Terrapin Tony Massenburg, Washington native Michael Smith, Rodrick Rhodes, Lee Mayberry and Makhtar Ndiaye, will be dealt to Houston. The Grizzlies will receive Michael Dickerson, former Washington Bullet Brent Price, Antoine Carr, a future first-round draft pick and former Georgetown forward Othella Harrington.

The NBA must approve the trade. From there, the Rockets must sign Francis, who will be teamed with Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and most likely Charles Barkley.

Francis and his agent, Jeff Fried, were not available to comment.

Francis had called for a noon news conference today at the Takoma Park Recreation Center to make a basketball-related announcement. As of last night, the news conference was still to take place. Several league sources believed Francis was going to announce that he would not play for the Grizzlies, even if it meant sitting out the season or playing overseas.

His wish has been granted.

On Wednesday, Grizzlies General Manager Stu Jackson confirmed that the relationship between Francis and the Grizzlies was strained. Jackson said that Francis had several issues develop recently that would make a marriage between Vancouver and Francis difficult.

There have been problems since the outset. When drafted in front of a favorable audience at MCI Center June 30, Francis openly expressed his displeasure about having to play for Vancouver.

He later said he was disappointed that he would have to be so far away from his grandmother and other family members.

The trade was deemed by the source as good for both teams. The Rockets get an explosive player in Francis who can play both guard spots. Houston has lacked a dynamic point guard for years and Francis may primarily be used there. The Rockets also get two blue-collar forwards off the bench in Massenburg and Smith.

As for Vancouver, landing Dickerson and Harrington addresses key needs. The Grizzlies, who have been trying since before the draft to upgrade their front court, will get a much-needed versatile forward in Harrington, who steadily has grown into a solid player. Carr is a steady veteran who provides depth at power forward and center.

Dickerson was one of the top rookies in the league last season, who also, at least in stature, matches up better with many of the league's bigger shooting guards. Dickerson and Grizzlies' point guard Mike Bibby were back-court mates and roommates at the University of Arizona.

Jackson admitted Wednesday that Vancouver has been shopping Francis. There were reports of Francis being involved in a seven-player trade with Detroit, but the Grizzlies were able to address more needs in their deal with Houston.


10-player deal involving former Maryland guard Steve Francis:

Houston gets:

G Steve Francis

F Tony Massenburg

G Lee Mayberry

F Makhtar Ndiaye

F-G Rodrick Rhodes

F Michael Smith

Vancouver gets:

F Antoine Carr

F-G Michael Dickerson

C-F Othella Harrington

G Brent Price

Future first-round draft pick