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Chron:Less is more for Francis

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by tonyxing, Dec 11, 2002.

  1. tonyxing

    tonyxing Member

    Nov 22, 2002
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    Less is more for Francis
    Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle
    The idea was always to be part of something big.

    Before the pingpong balls came up in the right combination.

    Before the Rockets became China's favorite team.

    Steve Francis is more than a foot shorter than Yao Ming, but he's always been just as big a target.

    Because of his position in the NBA draft, No. 2 overall.

    Because of what it took to get him to Houston, a three-team, 11-player trade that at the time was the largest in league history.

    Because it didn't take much of a leap to coin the nickname.

    Stevie Franchise.

    It's a burden he's worn like a yoke around his neck, both the promise and the pitfall that is practically a bull's-eye drawn on the back of his jersey.

    "I told him when he first came into the league that I thought he had the talent to become the greatest player ever at his position," said coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

    It was intended as the ultimate compliment to a young player with the brightest of careers in front of him, but at times he has carried it up and down the court like an anvil.

    "You hear it so much, so often, that sometimes it seems to control every part of you," Francis said. "If the team loses a game, it's your fault. If the team loses a lot of games, it's really your fault. If the team doesn't make the playoffs, it's all your fault."

    Image, as the saying goes, can be everything. But it also can grow into something bigger than reality until it consumes you.

    "A lot of pressure," he said. "A lot of frustrations."

    Never doubts. Francis knows how good he is and how much it means to win.

    It's never been a question of him not doing enough on the floor, but trying to do too much.

    Stand Francis in front of an open door and he'll likely try to run through the wall, just because he can.

    "I'm competitive," he said. "I grew up in a single-parent home and things were tough, so that's the way I am. I'm going to try to beat you any way that I can."

    Now, at least, in his fourth NBA season, Francis is beating a lot of people with regularity.

    Because he has help from a 7-5 rookie in the middle from Shanghai.

    Because he has a better cast of supporting characters all around him.

    Also because he's growing up in the game, maturing as a point guard, learning that being a leader doesn't mean you have to try to do everything.

    The numbers are more eye-popping than ever. He scored 32 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dealt five assists and made three steals Tuesday night in the Rockets' 103-96 win over the Kings.

    He cruised across the Sacramento landscape like a tornado, a swirling wind that couldn't be stopped.

    There was a perfect lob pass to Kenny Thomas for a slam dunk. There was its virtual twin a few minutes later to Terence Morris with the same result. There was the head-down, charging-like-a-bull-at-a-red-cape drive for the tomahawk dunk in the fourth quarter and the pull-up, in-your-face 3-pointer over his buddy Damon Jones to end the first quarter.

    There were more twists, more turns on drives for reverse layups, more corkscrews than in a sommelier's silverware drawer. Yet there seems to be less a sense of hurry about everything Stevie Franchise does this season, and that has resulted in the Rockets playing with more of a sense of urgency. If that makes any sense.

    "It's like the Buddhist stuff: `You have to let go in order to get,' " Rudy T said. "Hell, I'm not a philosopher. I don't know if I'm even saying it right."

    The point is that with Yao in the middle, with three years of experience under his belt, with enough battle scars on his hide, Francis is learning to let more of the game come to him.

    He is steadily becoming more of a leader by letting more of his teammates inside his circle, by not always banging his head on the wall.

    "When I played basketball in China for the Shanghai team, so much of the pressure was always on me," Yao said. "Now, with a guard like Steve, I don't have all of that pressure and it makes the game easier."

    Vice versa for Francis.

    It was about Yao coming down the stretch in the fourth quarter, holding off the Kings one more time. It will always be about Yao. With his passing skills and his understanding, he is changing the scope of his position and the face of the game. He scores 17 points, pulls down 15 rebounds, blocks four shots and affects so much of what the opponent is trying to do.

    The important thing is it doesn't always have to be about Francis and that it can become more about a complete team.

    "That's what I've always wanted," Francis said. "I've had plenty of time in the spring the past few years to watch the playoffs and realize that when the team succeeds, there's plenty of glory to go around. That's what I want to be -- the guy who spreads the glory."

    He came to Tomjanovich and to general manager Carroll Dawson over the summer with questions about leadership, about where he is going, about what the Rockets could accomplish right here, right now.

    He listened and then hit the ground running to start the season and has been providing all of the answers.

    "The Franchise is really something special," said the Kings' Chris Webber. "Steve Francis is awesome and now he has a little help from Yao."

    Help in terms of sheer size, in amazing talent, in lessening the burden he has to carry.

    You can see it in him now. Francis plays just as hard, but everything seems to come easier.

    "I always said it was going to be a process," he said. "Something natural. Something steady."

    Eventually, something big.
  2. Miggidy Markell

    May 29, 2000
    Likes Received:
    Great article..... good read! :)
  3. Nova

    Nova Member

    Jan 28, 2002
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    Jeez, I just wanna scream and shout and jump all around. What a bubbly, warm, fuzzy feeling that article brings. Here we come... CHAMPIONSHIP!
  4. Will

    Will Clutch Crew
    Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 1999
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    I guess it no longer remains to be seen what Yao can do for his game.
  5. arno_ed

    arno_ed Contributing Member

    Jan 14, 2002
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    we really have a great team now. Francis and Yao Ming are great playing alongside each other. We will be in the play-offs for the first time in a while

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