A condensed version of Dan Patrick's interview with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis appears in the April 30 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
DP: Do you still drink that fruit drink Wink?
|Rockets guard Steve Francis averaged 19.9 points and 6.5 assists this season.|
SF: I can't find it in Houston, so I'm a Hawaiian Punch guy. Is that a Pepsi product? You know what, just to be sure, put me down for Pepsi. We're working on a deal with them now. [editor's note: Hawaiian Punch is not a Pepsi product]
DP: And you want me to ask you about Destiny's Child, don't you? You're using me, aren't you, Steve?
SF: I'm definitely using you for a plug! It's the first time I've ever turned it around and used somebody else.
DP: So what's the message for Destiny's Child?
SF: That I think they're hot and I didn't want the photo shoot with The Magazine to end.
DP: That is so sweet.
DP: Cuttino is your best friend, right? Give me some dirt on him.
SF: Me and Cuttino are airtight. I can tell you one thing, he has no rhythm. He swears he's the coolest dancer, but he doesn't move his legs. Cuttino is all hips and fingers.
DP: Who would you say has more rhythm, Matt Bullard or Cuttino Mobley?
SF: Matt Bullard can definitely boogie. From 1 to 13 on our team, Cuttino is 12.
DP: Who's 13?
DP: Oh, you're even worse?
SF: Yeah -- I can't dance, but I know I can't dance and he thinks he can dance.
DP: Describe your dance style.
SF: On the basketball court, I think I have enough rhythm -- you know, charisma, pizzazz -- but when I try to dance to music, all I can do is bob my head left to right, left to right and laugh. You know, and try to play if off.
DP: Why don't you try to dance like you play?
SF: It's hard, because I don't have a ball in my hand and I seem to clap my hands too much. Then I snap my fingers too much.
DP: Because you want the ball?
SF: Because I want the ball. And when I'm dancing I think about getting the ball, so -- I don't know. It's wild.
DP: What's the strangest thing somebody's asked you to autograph?
SF: Besides kids always saying they want their shirt autographed, I always say, "You know, if your mom finds out that you got this shirt autographed, I don't think she's going to like it." But people ask me to autograph their arms, you know, autograph their baby's diapers. Things like that. So that's wild.
DP: How do you sign your autograph?
SF: I sign my name.
DP: So you do it Steve Francis? Or Steve Franchise?
SF: Steve Francis -- no, never Franchise. I haven't learned to accept that name yet. Until I get my team to the playoffs, then I'll be able to accept it ... but I just let other people say that.
DP: The best nickname in the NBA?
SF: I think so -- oh, what is?
DP: If that's not, since we're not allowed to use that yet, give me the best nickname.
SF: All right, whatever Shaq comes up with. Whatever he comes up, with because every week or every month he changes his name, you know.
DP: Like the Big Aristotle.
DP: "The Sopranos" or "Oz"?
SF: I don't want to do the same thing everybody does, so I watch Oz.
DP: Nice cover. I know you just watch for Rick Fox.
SF: Oh, he's the worst actor! He curses so much on that show, just like at the refs.
DP: He had a moment of brief nudity. I don't know if you saw that episode.
SF: No! And I'm glad.
DP: Do you practice dunking?
SF: I don't, honestly. In practice I just do basic dunks.You know, one hand, two hands.
DP: Why didn't you participate in the slam-dunk contest this year?
SF: I've been banged up a lot this year.
DP: Oh, stop. It was in your hometown.
SF: I know. And if I wouldn't have won in my hometown, it would have been tough. You know, to go back home and not win the dunk contest...
DP: What do you yell out after a dunk?
SF: Just anything.
DP: Does it depend on who you dunk over? If you dunk over somebody 6-6, do you yell...
DP: But have you dunked over Shaq?
SF: That was one of the things I wanted to accomplish this year, but I never really had a one-on-one face up with him. I laid a finger on him a couple of times, made him almost throw his arm out of its socket, but I never dunked on him.
DP: Did you ever dunk on Dikembe?
SF: Never dunked on Dikembe. I got 'Zo last year. Never got C-Webb. I got Patrick Ewing, Vin Baker.
DP: So you keep a list of the guys you dunk over?
SF: I remember those dunks because those guys are always saying, "You ain't going to dunk on me," and things like that.
DP: Give me your favorite dunkers -- current ones and then past dunkers.
SF: Now, I like Darrell Armstrong -- he's small but he can jump. But he needs to change his dunk. He does the same cuff-the-ball dunk. Dominique Wilkins is probably one of the greatest dunkers of all time. And I like Shaq, because he dunks so hard that, you know, once he jumps you know very few people want to get their arm broken, so they don't even jump.
DP: Are you surprised he has not brought down, not the backboard, but the whole rim, backboard, support, everything?
SF: He did it before when he was with Orlando. But he said he stopped doing it because it was taking a lot of his energy just yanking it. And sometimes, like if he'll bring the basket down, it would delay the game and he said he'll just get stiff. So it is surprising -- he's so aggressive under there.
DP: Did you used to cry when you'd lose?
SF: I cried every loss until, like, my third at Maryland. I stopped because there are too many games, and I wouldn't have any tears left for my wedding.
DP: Hang on ... sorry, I just got a little nauseous there, Steve ... you haven't cried in the pros, have you?
SF: I teared up a couple of times.
DP: When's the last time you cried after a game?
SF: Let me see. I think probably the first time this year when we lost to the Clippers in L.A. I think I teared up after that game...
DP: Did you cry because it was the Clippers?
SF: Yeah, and I thought we were better than them. I think we are better than them.
DP: What was Charles Barkley like as a teammate?
SF: I liked him a lot. I mean, as much as people joke about him, he did what Charles Barkley can do. That's rebound, talk trash and definitely be a leader. He was the leader on our team last year for the short period of time [before he was injured].
DP: Did he teach you anything?
SF: I don't know how he gained all that weight ... I mean, he was the one who got me to wake up at 9 o'clock before practicing at 11 and work out before even getting to the gym. And once I get into the gym, just get extra shooting and then practice. So he's the one who showed me about getting up and keeping my body in top shape. I put on like 12, 13 pounds of muscle from last season to this season.
DP: I talked to Jerry Stackhouse and I said, "Give me the team that you know you're going to score against?" He picked the Houston Rockets.
SF: Well, this year he scored 46 on us in Houston. We went to Detroit, he had 20-something. But if you take 36 shots and you don't get 30 points, there's something wrong. In my career, I've never taken more than 23 shots. So if I take 36 shots, I think I'd score 60 points.
DP: I asked him how many points he would score in a game. He said he thought he could score 70.
DP: How many points do you think you could score? Let's say the scoring title's at stake one year...
SF: I think I could hit probably 10 threes, so that's 30 off of threes. Go to the line, you know, realistically make 9-out-of-12 from the line, so that's 39. And then make, like, 10 two-pointers. So probably 60, 62 points.
DP: What's the most you've ever scored in a game?
SF: My career high is 36.
DP: You don't get to shoot enough. The other guys are gunners, you know that?
SF: Yeah. I mean, I don't want to be a gunner, but I pass the ball and make up for my points on assists. Assists are worth two points, so I average six assists, 20 points, that's really 32 points that I'm accounting for on my team.
DP: Who is the biggest gunner in the NBA?
SF: I love his game, but I think Vince Carter takes some wild shots. I think he's definitely the top-of-the-line gunner. And there's nothing wrong with it because that's what his team wants him to do. He and Kobe Bryant are the top gunners.
DP: Who is the goofiest guy in the league?
SF: It was Keith Closs last year. Definitely Keith Closs. But this year, I don't think anybody will ever take his place. I've got to leave that one open.
DP: So nobody's going to take Keith's place ... why was he the goofiest?
SF: Did you see that videotape when he got in a fight? I mean, that was goofy.
DP: If the Grizzlies move, would you play for them in another city?
SF: Yeah, definitely.
DP: So it was Vancouver?
DP: So if they were the St. Louis Grizzlies, you could play with them?
SF: Without Mike Bibby, because we play the same position.
DP: You would start over Bibby.
SF: Hopefully. Yeah, I would...
DP: Define a clutch player.
SF: I'm not just saying this because he's on my team -- Cuttino Mobley. I mean, he makes some unbelievable shots and I can't believe he shoots them.
DP: But what makes a clutch player?
SF: Someone who, when the game is on the line, is not scared to take the shot. I mean, nobody's really scared to take the shot ... but to me that's a clutch player.
DP: How do you deal with a guy who doesn't want to win?
SF: It's hard. For me, I'm young, I see it on my team. You know guys, I'm not saying they don't want to win, but guys who don't give it their all. I mean, we're getting paid more than anybody would make in their lifetime in one season and guys don't really take it seriously. I'm 24, and I notice that and it's hard to deal with.
DP: Do you have any fan that follows you around or you see everyplace? Is there somebody, not in a threatening way, but just somebody who's always there?
SF: Yeah, we have these two fans, they're older. They're like 70, they've been married for like 40 or 50 years, and they follow us everywhere. From Utah to Phoenix to Miami. And they're real good people. They make sure, you know, we have cakes. They bake cake and stuff for us.
DP: What Playstation game are you playing right now?
SF: I just got Tiger Woods Golf.
DP: Do you play golf?
SF: I got clubs ... I've lived here for two years and went out there twice. So I'm not really a good golf player. But I can appear at some celebrity golf tournaments.
DP: So what do you do? Just try to hit it as far as you can?
SF: Hit it as far as I can and ... I talked to the pro a couple of times to try to hit it hard. But once I learn, I think I've got a pretty good stroke for a guy who's played four or five times.
DP: Give me the worst uniforms in the NBA.
SF: Ours. The Rockets. I mean, they look like pajamas.
DP: Well, you're Stevie Franchise -- why can't you get those corrected?
SF: I don't know -- you know, people will tell me to use my ability to do certain things and I don't know ... if they don't think the uniforms aren't boring then I guess we'll just have to deal with it.
DP: Best uniforms?
SF: The best uniforms? Let me see, who has the best uniforms in the NBA?
DP: I kind of like the Grizzlies.
SF: That was nice, that was nice.
DP: I think I know where you're going with this.
SF: Toronto has great uniforms.
DP: I thought you were going to say the Lakers.
SF: You know what? I like Philadelphia's blue.
DP: But Iverson isn't leaving town any time soon.
DP: Favorite city to visit?
SF: Miami. Weather's nice, and it's pretty.
DP: And there are other reasons too, aren't there?
SF: Yeah, and I wish not to discuss them, but it's definitely the weather.
DP: If you were playing another sport, what would it be?
DP: And what would you be?
SF: I think I'd be a wide receiver like Randy Moss. We're both probably the same height. I used to play football and I got real good hands and I can catch. So I think I'd definitely be a good wide receiver.
DP: Houston's got an NFL expansion team coming in.
SF: Yeah, but the season conflicts too much. And I don't think Les Alexander, the owner, will let me put on one of those uniforms.
DP: Is the 3-pointer too easy? Do we need to move it out?
SF: No, it's not too easy because the percentages are low. I mean, some guys shoot 43 percent from the three, and some guys shoot 43 percent from layups. So I don't think that it's bad for the NBA. I think it's good.
DP: If you had a chance to sit down with the commissioner and change one rule, what would it be?
SF: One rule that I would change? Let me see. I don't know, this 2.9 rule, like when the guy's on the weak side, if you're in isolation against the guy...
DP: Oh, give me something sexier than that ... I'm giving you the power to change anything.
SF: All right, cool ... I wouldn't want to say three seconds, 'cause guys could camp all day ... I know, 24 seconds -- I think that's a little too quick. The 24-second clock. I think 30 seconds would be ideal since we play 12-minute quarters.
DP: Wouldn't you like to see a game where the big men can't go inside and the little men can't be outside?
SF: That would be great. They should switch it up like that. Or have a celebrity, like one game a year for every team to do that.
DP: So what celebrity would you bring in? You're allowed to bring in any celebrity to be on your team.
SF: For my team I would bring in Cynthia Cooper from the WNBA.
DP: Do you think Coop could have played in the NBA?
SF: I think she could have ... I think she is probably one of maybe five [WNBA players] who can play in the NBA.
DP: Can Sheryl Swoopes play?
SF: Sheryl Swoopes can play.
DP: Could she play in the NBA?
SF: She could play but she wouldn't be a star. She would definitely contribute to a lot of people's stats, from steals to blocks, but should would be able to compete.
DP: Is there a coach you would want to learn from? You've got Rudy T, but is there another coach in the league that you would listen to or want to learn under?
SF: I like Sacramento's coach, Rick Adelman ... Adelman and Mike Dunleavy look just alike to me. But Rick Adelman, I really like him. He has exciting players ... and he really got them exposed.
DP: Wait a minute, Dunleavy and Adelman look alike?
SF: Yeah, they look alike to me.
DP: See, I don't know if that's a compliment to either one of them. You're going to upset some people.
DP: Should you have won the Rookie of the Year outright? Or are you comfortable that you shared it with Elton Brand?
SF: I'm comfortable with that. Maybe that's something that'll be debated amongst people, you know, throughout our careers, because they always put me and him together. But we're two different players, two different positions. And we're going in two different directions right now.
DP: I asked Stackhouse recently to attach music to his game. If I were going to have the Steve Francis highlight reel, what music is going to be playing?
SF: Everything. It's not just one artist ... you can play Tony Braxton, you can play Destiny's Child.
DP: Yeah, I figured you would mention that.
SF: You can put all of it into one because I have so many different styles.
DP: Give me the one CD you have that you're a little embarrassed about.
SF: I got the new Madonna CD the first day it came out. I like that song "Music."
DP: So you don't have "Like a Virgin" or anything like that?
SF: No, no, no.
SF: The newest Madonna CD. She looked hot on the cover.
DP: So that's the one you have that if I saw it I might say, "What is this?" Or do your friends make fun of that one?
SF: I don't bring my CD case on a plane. I just have my little CD packet for my car, and I kind of cover them up. So I don't think too many of the guys know -- now they'll know if they read this.
DP: Then they're going to make fun of you.
SF: Exactly. ... Hold up for a sec, Dan.
DP: Is that Cuttino in the background interrupting us?
SF: Cuttino just wants to be heard.
DP: Put him on for a second.
DP: Steve said you want to be heard. What do you want to say?
CM: We're just young guys who like having fun, and that's all right.
DP: I hear that.