Francis tries to soothe hurt Vancouver feelings

Family concerns said root of initial reaction

3-year deal reported

July 22, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

There was no sulking or frowning. Three weeks to the day after those actions by Steve Francis were the talk of the NBA draft, the former Maryland guard showed up in Vancouver yesterday and actually cracked a smile.

Looking to make amends to a city that felt snubbed by his draft-day actions, when he was taken by the Vancouver Grizzlies with the draft's No. 2 pick, Francis said all the right things yesterday as he faced the media during a news conference at the team's home, General Motors Place.

While the Grizzlies would not disclose terms of a deal, ESPN reported yesterday that Francis has agreed to a three-year contract worth $7.9 million.

The question on everyone's mind, though, was this: Why the apparent snub of Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities in North America?

"It wasn't Vancouver," Francis said yesterday. "It was just the fact that I would be so far from my family, from my grandmother, from my brothers, from my sister and, initially, I didn't really think about the city. I was just thinking about how often I would see my family. That was my reaction."

Francis made a secret visit to Vancouver the weekend after the draft, meeting general man ager Stu Jackson and several team staff members. During that trip, he did not leave a favorable impression, as the hurt of being selected by Vancouver was still evident.

After taking some heavy hits by the media, both in Vancouver and nationally, Francis, in the three weeks since the draft, apparently has come to terms with playing for the Grizzlies.

"A lot of thought process, a lot of things that I had to contemplate," Francis said when asked what was the difference between draft night and yesterday. "I think that this is something that I've always wanted to do, to be a basketball player. Now I'm given one of the best opportunities that any guy who was drafted could want."

The addition of Francis gives the Grizzlies a young, up-and-coming team. Vancouver already has a solid foundation in forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, one of the NBA's top scoring forwards.

Point guard Mike Bibby is coming off a season in which he was a first-team All-Rookie selection. And Bryant "Big Country" Reeves is potentially a capable center if he's able to push himself away from the dinner table this summer and shed the extra weight he carried last season.

Francis is expected to fit right in at shooting guard, with the ability to spell Bibby at the point. While that would give Vancouver one of the smallest backcourts in the league (Francis is 6 feet 3 and Bibby 6-2), the organization is not concerned.

"You can look back to what Philadelphia did this year with [6-3 point guard] Eric Snow and [6-foot shooting guard] Allen Iverson," said Vancouver coach Brian Hill, who flew from Los Angeles, where the Grizzlies have a summer league team, to be at the news conference.

"You can look back to the championship teams in Detroit with [6-1] Isiah Thomas and [6-3] Joe Dumars, who were considered too small to be effective guards.

"I think the key is that they're going to complement each other, and that's what you have to look for," Hill added. "Mike is more of a shooter and quarterback-type player, and Steve is more of a slasher and scorer. I think they're going to complement each other and make each other that much more effective on the floor."

While he anticipated being a point guard in the NBA, Francis said he would have no problem playing shooting guard.

"I played `2' last year at Maryland," Francis said. "It won't be that big of a change for me. I just have to be ready to check big guys."

Francis may well have several friends on the team when the season starts. Former Maryland center Tony Massenburg ('90) is already on the team, and Terrapins teammate Obinna Ekezie was a second-round pick by the Grizzlies.

"I've talked to him every day," Francis said of Ekezie. "He's been away from Nigeria for years and he'll be out here with me. Even last year, he was someone that I really looked up to on my team at Maryland. Hopefully, we'll be able to help each other out."

While being away from family was cited by Francis as being his biggest concern on draft night, he said that he won't be bringing any members of his family out to live with him at the start.

"My grandmother will definitely come out to visit me, but I think I need to handle this myself," he said. "Maybe later, my brother will come out and stay with me."

And is he geared up to perform in his new home?

"Yes, I am," Francis said. "There are a lot of young guys who are willing to win.

"If you look at my track record, you'll see that I won at every school I played," he added. "I plan to continue that here."

Pub Date: 7/22/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.