The Houston Rockets signed rookie guard Steve Francis to a contract Wednesday, five days after acquiring his rights from Vancouver in the largest trade in NBA history.
Francis, the second overall pick in the June draft, had refused to sign with the Grizzlies, setting in motion a three-team, 11-player trade. Houston made the deal under the presumption it would be able to get Francis under contract.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity to come for a long time," Francis said. "I think I really worked hard to get myself into this position and no matter what the money, I'm still the type of person who loves to play basketball and have a love for the game."
Although terms were not disclosed, Francis is due a three-year contract worth about $9 million under the rookie salary cap. The parameters of the deal would have been the same in Vancouver.
"Steve is a special player," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "I don't think you see a guy with his kind of talent come around often. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to bring him here and make him a big part of our future."
Francis joins a lineup of Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley, although Barkley hasn't re-signed with Houston yet.
Earlier this week, Francis said that with those guys as his teammates he should lead the league in assists.
"If I don't something will be wrong," said Francis, Houston's projected starting point guard.
Along with Francis, Vancouver sent journeyman forward Tony Massenburg to Houston for forwards Othella Harrington and Antoine Carr and guards Michael Dickerson and Brent Price. The Rockets also gave the Grizzlies an undisclosed amount of cash plus a first-round draft pick over the next three years.
Orlando sent Don MacLean and a future first-round pick to Houston in exchange for the Grizzlies' Michael Smith, Lee Mayberry, Rodrick Rhodes and Makhtar Ndiaye. The Magic also dealt their 2002 second-round pick to Vancouver.
The 6-foot-3 Francis, a second-team All-American in his only season at Maryland, averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.assists while leading the Terrapins to a 26-5 record.
In the two previous seasons, Francis led Houston-area San Jacinto Junior College and Alleghany Community College to unbeaten records.
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