Steve Francis(notes) is an odd case. After taking the league by storm his first few seasons, he essentially petered out as he got older, had injury trouble, and parted ways with beloved teammate Cuttino Mobley(notes). But by virtue of once being teammates and friends with Yao Ming(notes), he's still massively popular in China.
Now, it appears he may be close to a deal with a team in the Chinese Basketball Association. From NiuBBall.com:
According to TOM Sports, Beijing [Shougang Ducks] came away satisfied after watching Francis workout in Florida for two days and are prepared to enter the final stages of contract negotiations.
Concerned about Francis' two-year absence from the professional basketball court, team head coach, Min Lulei, arrived in the States on the night of the 11th and watched Francis workout the following two days. Min came away impressed and the team is hoping that Francis will be wearing a Ducks uniform this December, but according to Beijing GM Yuan Chao, there's still some work to be done on the contract front.
"His conditioning isn't bad, there'd be no problem for him playing in the CBA," said Yuan. "First, we need to look at the contract and see if there are any ‘special provisions' he may require."
"Special provisions" include: unlimited smart-phone data plan to video-chat with Cuttino Mobley, a house right by The Great Wall (on the good side), and a panda that knows how to play "Call of Duty."
Francis hasn't been at his basketballing best for years, so let's be clear that this is a cash and fame grab, not a Kenny Powers-like attempt to get back into the major leagues. He's grasping at what little ability he has left to make some extra money and feel like he's still relevant. This is likely an ego trip, not a "for love of the game" situation.
And really, who are we to criticize him for such a move? The CBA isn't the most glamorous league, but it has a sizable fanbase of legitimate basketball fans. If they still want to cheer for the occasional Steve Francis dunk, then by golly, he should give them what they want.
When your career is based on feeling the love of a capacity crowd, it's hard to fade into a life of anonymity. Hopefully Francis and Beijing can work out these terms and get a deal done. It seems to be what both sides want.