楼主:bdmrg 时间:2007-08-15 08:57:00 湖南 点击:2578 回复:16
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Happy in Houston, Francis eyeing bounce-back year
  Steve Francis, shown here in 2000, chose to return to the Rockets over offers from the Heat, Clippers and Mavericks.
  Steve Francis had a good reason for delaying an interview.
  "Can you hold on a minute, man?" Francis asked politely. "I need to get in this hot tub. My whole body is killing me."
  Since signing a one-year, $2.4 million contract (with a player option for a second season) last month to return to Houston, the 30-year-old Francis has tortured his body at Tulane University with one clear, concise goal in mind: to reclaim his status as one of the league's premier point guards.
  "I was never 100 percent last season," said Francis, who suffered from knee and ankle injuries and played only 44 games with the Knicks. "There was no significant damage, but there was a lot of wear and tear."
  Francis rises at 8 a.m., five mornings a week, for 2½ hours of rehab on his left leg. At 10:30, he moves into conditioning drills, and at 2 p.m., he finally starts his basketball workout. "It's a grind," Francis said. On weekends he flies back to Houston, where he visits with his wife and daughter in the house that he built shortly after signing his first NBA contract.
  For Francis, a return to Houston can't be considered a homecoming, because to him, he never really left after playing there from 1999 to 2004. He spends offseasons in Texas and returns for visits during regular-season breaks. When it came time to rehab his injured knee last season, Francis returned to Houston and worked with another player trying to come back from injury: Rockets center Yao Ming.
  Yao's presence played a significant role in Francis' decision to return to Texas. Even after his divorce from the Rockets, Francis remained in contact with Yao, his teammate for two seasons. Before he rejoined Houston, Francis spoke at length with Yao as well as Tracy McGrady.
  "I wanted to know where they stood," said Francis, who earned the nickname "Stevie Franchise" during his first stint in Houston. "Yao and I talk all the time, but I wanted to talk to both of them about joining what they had started."
  Suffice it to say, the Rockets' All-Stars were on board. "Both guys wanted Steve," general manager Daryl Morey said. "I try to keep them updated on every major move, and the reaction from them was, 'We didn't think we had a chance at Steve.' But once they did, they both wanted to get him here."
  Francis, a three-time All-Star, has seen his career slowly decline since his stormy departure from the Rockets in June 2004, when he was dealt to Orlando for McGrady after a season spent clashing with coach Jeff Van Gundy. Though Francis initially welcomed the trade, the relief he felt quickly turned to anger when the Magic shipped Cuttino Mobley, Francis's best friend and backcourt mate in Houston, to Sacramento in January 2005. When word of the trade came down, a distraught Francis wept openly in the visiting locker room in Boston.
  The following season, Francis began to rebel. In a game against Seattle, he refused Magic coach Brian Hill's request to re-enter the game with time winding down and Orlando trailing by 16 points. His defiance earned him a three-game suspension, and although he would later apologize, the damage had already been done. Seventeen games later, Francis was traded to the Knicks.
  Things didn't improve in the bright lights of Manhattan, where Francis paired with Stephon Marbury to form a backcourt tandem of players with similar games. Despite being billed as coach Larry Brown's hand-selected pick, Francis finished the 2005-06 season averaging only 10.8 points in 24 games with the Knicks and quickly found himself entrenched in Brown's doghouse. Then came the injury-plagued '06-07 season, in which Francis averaged a career-low 11.3 points.
  "You know, besides the injuries, I think the timing was bad in New York," Francis said. "There was no bickering between myself and players and coaches. I was just never totally comfortable in the offense. Stephon and I, we probably tried to defer to each other too much. We never played our games."
  Francis chooses his words carefully when discussing his Knicks tenure, likely because he prefers to look at his time away as a sabbatical in the career of a lifelong Rocket. When the Knicks dealt him to Portland for Zach Randolph on draft night, Francis immediately began thinking of a possible return to Houston.
  "I never wanted to play in Portland," Francis said. "I never even thought about it. Portland has a young nucleus and a lot of talent, but I wanted to be in a veteran situation."
  When the Trail Blazers bought out the remainder of Francis' contract for $30 million, the suitors began to line up: Miami (which offered more money), the Clippers (who offered Mobley --"he must have called me 1,000 times," Francis said) and Dallas (which offered the best chance at a championship). But Francis' heart was in Houston.
  "Sure, there were other options," Francis said. "It was a tough decision. But this is where I want to be."
  "Players have a short window to make their money," Morey said. "And after we signed Luis Scola, we didn't have much. Steve turned down a lot more money to play with us."
  The Rockets are hoping Francis will play 70-80 games next season and blend seamlessly into new coach Rick Adelman's pass-and-cut offense. "The goal is to get all our guys playing together by the playoffs," Morey said. "We are really making a one-year bet on Steve. But we hope he can play in all 82.
  "We felt there was still a bit of a gap between us and the top teams. Steve gets us closer."
  Though he will have to learn to adjust to life as Houston's third-tier star, Francis is eager for a chance to become the missing link in the team's championship quest. "I can contribute at any position," he said. "Once training camp comes around, I'll be ready to go out there and ball."


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楼主bdmrg 时间:2007-08-19 14:17:03 湖南
  mercy beaucoup.
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