Francis' meeting with Magic triggers trade

HOUSTON -- Tracy McGrady is leaving his hometown team for Houston in a blockbuster trade that sends Steve Francis to the
Orlando Magic and gives the Rockets one of the NBA's most intriguing duos.

The deal, which had been in the works for nearly two weeks, also sent forward Juwan Howard and guards Tyronn Lue and Reece Gaines to
the Rockets. The Magic will acquire guard Cuttino Mobley and forward Kelvin Cato.

"I just knew it was going to take time," McGrady told ESPN Tuesday night. "I'm happy and it's time to move on."

The trade was finalized after Francis' meeting with Magic
general manager John Weisbrod and other team officials in Orlando
on Tuesday.

McGrady, a two-time NBA scoring champion, now joins 7-foot-5 Yao
Ming to form a combination that potentially could be as dominant as
the Los Angeles Lakers' three-time title twosome of Shaquille
O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

"I sure hope so," McGrady said in the ESPN interview. "I
can't predict the future, but it definitely would be nice. The
ultimate goal is to win a championship for the Houston Rockets."

And with the Lakers splintering apart since coming up short in
the NBA Finals, Houston immediately looks like a serious
championship contender in the Western Conference next season.

McGrady signed with the Magic in 2000, thinking he and Grant
Hill could push an up-and-coming squad over the top. But Hill's bad
left ankle limited him to 37 games in four seasons, and McGrady's
load grew heavier with each passing year.

Tired of carrying a mediocre franchise, McGrady vowed to
exercise the opt-out clause in his contract that was to go into
effect at the end of next season. But Orlando did not want him to
leave without the team receiving compensation -- like O'Neal did
eight years ago.

McGrady, 25, becomes the fourth defending scoring champion in
NBA history to be dealt away, and the first since the Buffalo
Braves sent Bob McAdoo to the New York Knicks in 1976.

Francis, a three-time All-Star, averaged 16.6 points, 5.5
rebounds and 6.2 assists last season to join Oscar Robertson, Magic
Johnson and Hill as the only players in league history to average
at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of their
first five years.

Francis, Mobley and Yao led the Rockets to the playoffs last
season for the first time in five years. Houston lost to the Los
Angeles Lakers in the first round.

But Francis, who flourished in an up-tempo offense for the
previous four years, was put on the summer trading block after
posting the worst offensive numbers of his career in new coach Jeff
Van Gundy's slower-paced scheme.

When the deal was first discussed last week, Francis balked at
joining the rebuilding Magic. But Francis' agent, Jeff Fried, said
a talk between the point guard and Weisbrod after Thursday's draft
helped alleviate some of the All-Star guard's concerns about
joining the Magic.

Fried said Weisbrod convinced Francis that the Magic could
improve quickly with the additions of No. 1 draft pick Dwight
Howard, a 6-foot-11 high school star from Atlanta, and point guard
Jameer Nelson, the point guard from St. Joseph's who won virtually
every college player of the year award last season.

Francis was also impressed that the Magic wanted to make him the
centerpiece of the rebuilding franchise.

"I think that he certainly believes in what John is trying to
build," Fried told The Associated Press Tuesday. The Magic "could
well have gotten almost any player in the league for Tracy McGrady.
Steve felt pretty pleased with their reasons for talking to him and
what his role might be in the rebuilding process."

Mobley, one of Francis' best friends, comes to Orlando after
averaging 17.1 points and four rebounds a game in six seasons with
the Rockets. A second-round pick by Houston in 1998, Mobley has
become one of the league's most underrated players.

Cato, a 6-11 power forward, averaged 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds
in five years with the Rockets.

"Some days you are going to be some place. Some days you can be
moved tomorrow," Cato told Houston television station KRIV. "You
take it for what it's worth."

Howard, a 10-year veteran, has averaged 17.8 points and 7.4
rebounds with Washington, Dallas, Denver and Orlando. Last season,
he was second on the Magic in scoring (17.0 points per game) and
first in rebounding (7.0).

Lue averaged career highs of 10.5 points and 4.2 assists with
Orlando last season, his first as a full-time starter. The 6-foot
guard played on two championship teams with the Lakers in 2000 and

Gaines, the 15th overall pick of the 2003 NBA draft, saw little
time as a rookie with the Magic. He averaged only 1.8 points in 9.6
minutes for the league's worst team.

"I think they did a tremendous job on this trade," McGrady
said. "I think both teams are going to benefit."