Mon Dec 20 10:00am EST
The NBA doesn't have much use for former All-Star Steve Francis(notes) these days, so he's flown off to China to work for the Beijing Ducks, same as former All-Stars/tiny shooting guards Allen Iverson(notes) (to Turkey, though) and Stephon Marbury(notes) (to China, definitely) have done. And in his first game with the Ducks, yeah, Steve kind of took to the court in his first game wearing an ice pack on his ankle.
The long list of players not being ready to hop into pro basketball games is long, and semi-legendary.
[See also: Yao Ming's career could be over]
There's former Pacer Bob Netolicky, who once pulled away his sweats at the scorer's table to see a jock strap and little else where basketball shorts were supposed to be. There's Rod Strickland, who checked into a game wearing his Wizards shorts backwards. There's Stephen Jackson(notes), who Lang Whitaker once witnessed eating popcorn before a game as a ballboy (a kid, mind you) wondered aloud as to how a professional ballplayer could be so flighty with what he puts into his body. And then there's Rod Strickland, whose pregame (as in, seconds before the game) meal of a hot dog was then thrown up onto the court a few minutes later. The list is mostly Rod Strickland.
[Rewind: Big Baby lives up to name on the court]
But I can't completely blame Steve Francis for checking into the game with an ice pack around his ankle. I kind of can, but not completely.
This is where Jon Pastuszek of NIUBball.com has the (great) story:
Even just hours before the game, Coach Min indicated to reporters that Francis would not play tonight, as both the player and organization wanted to allow more time for him to improve his conditioning and adapt to the 13 hour time Beijing-New York time difference. But, as game became more and more out of reach in the fourth quarter, large numbers of fans started chanting obscenities towards Min in an effort to get him to change his mind.
With Francis icing his ankle on the bench clearly not expecting to be subbed in, Min inserted him into the game anyways after Beijing's Jordanian forward, Zaid Abbas, converted on an and-one lay-up on the offensive end. Completely unprepared to enter the game, Francis didn't even have time to tie his shoes as he quickly shed his warm-up suit and tucked in his jersey before entering the court. With his shoelaces loose and the ice pack around his ankle, Fu Laoda -- loosely translated into English as Big Boss Francis -- received a loud standing ovation and the obligatory "Fu Laoda, jiayou!" chant from the home crowd as he ran back on defense after the free throw. (In Chinese, jiayou literally means "add oil," but translated into common English, it would mean "let's go!" "here we go!" and/or "come on!") After a Charles Gaines(notes) putback for Qingdao, Francis received the inbounds pass and dribbled out the clock, despite cheers from the crowd egging him to shoot one at the buzzer.
Seventeen seconds, no shot attempts, no assists, not a single digit registered in the box score save for the 0:17 time of play.
The whole thing seems a bit dodgy from all sides. Francis is clearly out of shape, along with being out of line with the Chinese time zones. And while I can understand how a properly placed bag full of ice strewn around your ankle can really help, and while every second of anti-inflammatory rehab counts, did he really need it there (outside of a sock, no less, which doesn't really do much in terms of limiting swelling) during the game? And though those bags are usually taped on by trainers, I have a hard time believing (even if the Ducks have an NBA-level trainer taping those things to his ... socks) Steve couldn't have ripped it off in time to take the court.
On the other end, if Francis is rehabilitating, wouldn't putting the guy in street clothes be just as much of a boon to the Ducks and their fans as would tossing him out there in uniform and leaving him and his coach prone to the whims and frustration of the paying fans? Steve had to be ticked off at the coach who gave into the catcalls, and while he handled it the wrong way, so too did the Ducks.
So, obviously, the relationship between Francis and the Ducks is going to go exceedingly well.
(Photo courtesy Osports.cn.)