December 27, 2010
Unless Steve Francis(notes) completely reshapes his body, attitude and game, he is probably done in the world of professional basketball. The whole world. Because the team in Beijing that signed him a few weeks ago has just cut him.
In what is being described as an amicable parting between two sides that completely hate each other, the Beijing Ducks have released the former NBA All-Star (the former NBA All-Star starter, mind you) after a total of four games played out of a one-season (with an option for a second) contract. Francis was with the team for 13 days and played a total of 14 minutes. He scored two points.
The Ducks signed the 33-year-old Francis because of his popularity in the region due to his one-time pairing with fellow Houston Rockets All-Star Yao Ming(notes). Francis never seemed to get over the fact that he was more of a sideshow in the Chinese league than an actual on-court asset, which is fair, but the Ducks' coaching staff also never seemed to get over the fact that Francis was completely out of shape and looked ineffective in a league where other NBA washouts like Randolph Morris(notes) and Javaris Crittenton(notes) can average Jordan-esque statistics.
Rumors have long been bounced around about how Francis never did the best job keeping his body in shape. Still, the real culprit behind this move and the idea that he even had to shop his wares around the Chinese league just six years after making an NBA All-Star team at the age of 26 is the fact that Francis never worked on his game. The all-around athletic talent that entered the NBA in 1999 was the same all-around talent -- save for the potential -- who was just cut the other day from the Beijing Ducks. Same ideas about driving and scoring, but without the body that once allowed for endless forays to the front of the rim.
And because Francis never really worked on perfecting that jumper or improving his court vision, the game passed him by. Even in China, where he clashed with the Ducks coach and insisted that more game time -- as opposed to hours spent practicing with his new team -- would be the best remedy for his basketball woes. And basketball doesn't really work that way, on any level.
Worse, Francis brought with him the sort of petulant attitude that forced him to clash with coaches in Houston, Orlando and New York -- and inspired the Magic to actually suspend him back in 2006.
In his third game on the 19th against Guangdong, Francis scored his first and only basket of his China career in a little over five minutes, but his play on the court was overshadowed by a late-game incident that happened off the court. Coming down to the wire in a close game away against three-time defending champs, Guangdong, Beijing's star import, Randolph Morris, fouled out on a questionable loose ball foul battling for a rebound under the boards. Morris, displeased with the call, walked back to the bench incredulously as the game's television camera focused in on him. Unknowingly on camera, Francis, in the background and on the bench, extended a middle finger over his head to the ref protesting the call. Though he went unpunished by in-game officials, he received a warning by the league for his "uncivilized behavior," and the team was ordered to privately "criticize and educate" the player to prevent any similar acts from occurring in the future, which is a common and accepted form of punishment within the country.
Because that's what 33-year-old basketball players do. They flip off the refs.
Barring a complete overhaul of his body, playing style and attitude, Francis is done in the NBA. And while the Chinese leagues aren't the dregs of the international scene, the organization is a ways removed from the better European leagues or the American minor leagues. And no matter the talent level, no league is going to want a petulant former star who isn't in shape, who only wants to work back into shape on company time, and brings a terrible attitude to an otherwise happy team.
This is probably it for Steve Francis. Unless he changes everything we've ever known about Steve Francis.