Ryan's Place

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Magic Trade Francis for Hardaway & Ariza

From Brian Schmitz at the Orlando Sentinel:

Steve Francis still couldn't believe his ears -- and he is partially deaf in his right one.

"I'm shocked . . . and relieved,'' Francis told the Sentinel by cell phone Wednesday. "As much speculation as there was, still, I didn't think it would happen."

What happened was that Francis was traded Wednesday by the Orlando Magic to the New York Knicks for forward Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway, a former Magic guard.

Francis played about a season-and-a-half for the Magic after arriving in the blockbuster Tracy McGrady trade with the Houston Rockets in 2004.

He was the last ex-Rocket standing, so to speak.

Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato arrived in the multiplayer deal between Orlando and Houston. Mobley was traded to the Sacramento Kings last season, and Cato was dealt to the Detroit Pistons last week.

Francis has been the subject of trade rumors for weeks.

"I didn't want to leave," Francis said. "I wanted to stay in Orlando and play for a long time. Am I [angry]? Hey, man, it's the NBA. You got to respect the business.

"I'm making a good living. I can't complain. It was just it has been tough on me and my family going through this. I was in limbo, man.

"I've seen other players, and they were all coming up to me saying, 'Man, are you all right?' They never seen somebody have to go through this for so long. New York. . . . It's cool.''

Francis' teammates genuinely liked him, but some didn't always like playing with him. They and the coaching staff might have grumbled privately -- Francis was prone to making a turnover as much as he was a highlight play -- but they were all complimentary in the wake of his exit.

"It's tough losing Steve," Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "Steve's a good guy."

Veteran forward Pat Garrity sensed Francis was "glad to move on. People don't understand how tough it was for him to play with everything going on.

"The big problem is that we've never had any continuity [this season]; our group of guys was always changing. Who knows what would have happened if that had been different?"

Garrity said the club, by taking on Hardaway's expiring contract, was "giving itself room to operate.

"My inclination is to think we don't have many long-term contracts, except for the young guys, and they put themselves in a position to have [salary-cap] flexibility to build around."

Center Tony Battie said the trade of Francis said one thing to him: "I think they're giving the team to Dwight Howard, and that's the right thing to do. Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two steps forward."


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