(Long Island, NY) The Knicks recent trade of Trevor Ariza and Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway to the Orlando Magic for Steve Francis will bring up the question that will be asked over and over- can Francis and Stephon Marbury survive together? Both players are very similar. Either can play the “1” (Point Guard) or the “2” (Shooting Guard). Both like the ball in their hands and both like to shoot. Neither Francis nor Marbury are thought of as team players on the court, but as individuals trying to create more opportunities for themselves.
Now they are dressing in the same locker room. There’s only 1 ball. Will these 2 players be able to distribute it to their teammates? The person playing the Point Guard position is thought of as the ‘quarterback’ on the basketball court. He has to set up the play, call it out, and look pass-first. Earlier in the season, Knicks Head Coach Larry Brown experimented with using Stephon Marbury as the Shooting Guard to take advantage of his talents and to allow him the chance to score more. He had success doing this with Allan Iverson when he coached the Philadelphia 76ers. It did not work out as well with Marbury and he has mainly played the Point Guard. He is also just coming back from a shoulder injury.
Steve Francis is an interesting player. His nickname is “Franchise”. He was a first round pick in the 1999 NBA Draft (number two overall selection) of the then-Vancouver Grizzlies, who have since moved to Memphis. He forced a trade to the Houston Rockets because he did not want to play in Vancouver. Not to side with Francis, but at the time that organization was not run very well and were one of the worst teams in the NBA. He played in Houston for 5 seasons with his best year being 2001-2002 when he averaged 21.6 points per game. He was traded in 2004 to the Orlando Magic in a multi-player deal where he and Tracy McGrady were the major names involved. His numbers have dropped a little since the trade to the Magic. This season he ha averaged 16.2 points per game in 46 games played, with 45 starts.
Steve Francis is a talented player. No one can take that away from him. He has averaged 19.3 points per game for his career. He joined a distinct group in 2003-2004 along with Magic Johnson, Grant Hill and Oscar Robinson as the only players in NBA history to average 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in each of their first five seasons. He is also a 3-time NBA All-Star. One knock against him is that he has only played in five playoff games in his career and he is in his 8th season. That is a reflection of him not being able to lead his team, whichever one he played for, to the post season. Point Guards have the dubious distinction of having this responsibility. They are in a way judged by the success of their teams rather than their individual statistics.
Coincidentally enough, this has also been the negative talk on Stephon Marbury. He is in his 14th season and has played in 18 playoff games. But every team he has been traded from has had more success after he left. The Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns all dealt the talented guard from Coney Island, Brooklyn and never looked back.
Only time will tell if Francis and Marbury can use their talent to help the team improve. The Knicks currently have the second-worst record in the league. They can only improve, unless they sink to the basement of the NBA below the second-year Charlotte Bobcats.