The prospect of playing alongside high school star Dwight Howard and an easier road to the playoffs were enough to persuade Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis to drop his objections to a trade that would send him to the Orlando Magic for NBA leading scorer Tracy McGrady, according to his agent.

The Magic is expected to announce the trade, which was held up a week after Francis balked at playing for the last-place team, on Wednesday, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. Francis, a three-time all-star, is flying to Orlando today to meet with the Magic's management, including President John Weisbrod, the man who persuaded Francis to move to Orlando.

Under the terms of the trade, the Magic will send guard McGrady, forward Juwan Howard and guard Tyronn Lue to the Rockets for Francis, guard Cuttino Mobley and center Kelvin Cato, said the source.

Upon hearing news of the pending trade, Francis initially said he disliked the idea of playing for a team that was rebuilding. His representatives began making inquiries about which teams would be interested in swapping for Francis in the event he was traded to the Magic.

But in a Thursday-night phone conversation, Weisbrod sold Francis on the team's draft acquisitions, playoff chances and appreciation of his talents, according to Jeff Fried, Francis's agent.

"They could have got anyone for Tracy McGrady," Fried said. "That impressed Steve about how highly the Magic thought of him."

McGrady finished this past season with a 28-point scoring average, tops in the NBA, and Francis averaged 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists to join Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill as the only players in NBA history to average at least 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in each of their first five seasons.

Francis, an all-American at the University of Maryland, also was impressed with the players Orlando has obtained since the end of last season.

The Magic chose Atlanta high school sensation Howard, a 6-11 power forward, with the first pick in the draft. Scouts say Howard, a skilled scorer, shot blocker and rebounder, has the talent to become an NBA star.

The Magic also obtained St Joseph's guard Jameer Nelson, the NCAA's player of the year last season, from the Denver Nuggets.

The addition of Francis, Howard and Nelson could help the team compete in the realigned NBA next season. The Magic will be in the same division, what many predict will be the league's weakest, with the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and expansion Charlotte Bobcats.

Of the five teams, only the Heat made the playoffs last season.

Rockets' Steve Francis, a three-time NBA all-star, likely will be a member of the Magic next season.MCGRADYFRANCIS