Francis hopes first impression also lasting

Enjoying festivities, rookie aims to be chosen for team

All-Star notebook

February 13, 2000|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Steve Francis dreams of the day when he'll be voted onto an NBA All-Star team by the fans, or selected as a reserve by the coaches. Considering the impact he has made as a rookie for the Houston Rockets, that day doesn't seem too far off. Maybe next year in Washington.

The former Maryland star got his first taste of the excitement that surrounds the event when he was the only player to participate in three of the four competitions that comprise the league's All-Star Saturday gala. Francis was certainly enjoying himself.

Francis finished with 13 points and 11 assists in 28 minutes of the Schick Rookie Challenge, helping the rookie team beat the second-year players, 92-82. Among his six baskets were three terrific dunks, which Francis hoped would help him get ready for last night's Slam Dunk Championship.

"Just trying to showcase a little," said Francis.

Francis also competed in the 2Ball event with Cynthia Cooper, the three-time WNBA Championship MVP from the Houston Comets, but the pair did not make it out of the first round. That was won by Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz and Natalie Williams of the Utah Starzz.

Francis said that he is well aware that next year's All-Star Game will be at the MCI Center, close to his roots in Takoma Park. "If I do happen to get in, that will be great," he said. "But if I don't, I'll understand."

Brand makes his mark

Former Duke star Elton Brand was the MVP of the Schick Rookie game. He finished with 14 points and 21 rebounds.

"The coach instilled that we had to play D, rebound and get back," said Brand, the No. 1 pick in last year's draft choice of the Chicago Bulls. "I just wanted to win the game, have fun. It was fun, we enjoyed it."

His coach was impressed.

"He knows how to play, he knows how to rebound," said Nate Thurmond, the former Warrior great who still holds the NBA record for most rebounds in a quarter (18 against the Baltimore Bullets in 1965). "It's not always about jumping over people. He kind of reminds me of Wes Unseld, the way he boxes out."

Referee deal struck

The NBA announced last night that it had come to a four-year agreement with its referees. The contract, which was to expire at the end of this season, will now run through the 2003-2004 season.

"We made a deal that's very fair for everybody," said deputy commissioner Russ Granik. "We know that we're going to have labor peace with the players and referees now for four years."

Granik also said that Dennis Rodman's living situation will have to change. Rodman had rented a guest house on the property of Mark Cuban, who recently bought the Dallas Mavericks and immediately signed Rodman to a contract. Such an arrangement is against the NBA's current collective bargaining agreement.

"It is clearly a violation of the salary cap rules for an owner or even a prospective owner on behalf of the team to be renting out any space or having any other kind of financial transaction with a player," Granik said. "I think in this case it was a fairly innocent error. In due course, Mr. Rodman will be moving out."

"Like Tuesday," said commissioner David Stern.

Speaking of moving

Stern did not mince words when discussing the future of the Rockets, saying they are certain to move to a new city if they don't get a new arena by 2003. Voters in Houston turned down a referendum last fall to publicly finance half the cost of a new building.

"As far as them moving, it's more than probable, it's certain that the team will be relocated" if plans are not in place for a new arena by the time the Rockets' lease at the Compaq Center expires after the 2002-03 season, Stern said.

Pub Date: 2/13/00

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