- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Steve Francis is a conscientious objector.

The Orlando Magic guard refused to re-enter the fourth quarter of a loss to the Seattle SuperSonics last week, taking a stand against 16-point deficits with 3:22 left for hybrid guards everywhere.

The Magic respectfully disagreed and suspended Francis indefinitely for “conduct detrimental to the team,” although the team reinstated him yesterday.

Orlando should not be surprised. Francis always has had strong beliefs.

When he was drafted with the second pick overall in 1999, Francis refused to report to the Vancouver Grizzlies, taking a stand against expansion franchises in cold Canadian cities.

Francis’ voice was heard. Two seasons later, the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, sparing future NBA players the indignity of having to report to Vancouver.

But Francis has been left to suffer other inequities during his seven-year career.

In Houston, he was coached by Jeff Van Gundy — wait, it gets worse — who coached Francis to his only playoff appearance in 2004. If that wasn’t bad enough, Van Gundy suspended Francis for his reported detour to the Super Bowl during a road trip.

The guy can’t catch a break.

Last season, his first in Orlando, the Magic traded Cuttino Mobley, Francis’ career-long teammate and best friend.

“I can’t put it into words,” said Francis, who is eerily close to Mobley. “Playing with a guy, living with a guy, just knowing that every day when I wake up, that’s something I can count on — him not being here is going to be tough for me. I don’t know what I’m going to wake up for.”

The Magic obviously have no consideration for Francis’ feelings. After all, Francis and Mobley once bought fur coats together. That’s a bond that can’t be broken.

It seems only the University of Maryland understands Francis’ greatness. The Terrapins retired his jersey number after a one-year layover during which he led them to a stirring Sweet 16 appearance.

This season Francis has an opportunity to play with one of the game’s stand-up guys (Grant Hill) and one of the game’s most gifted young players (Dwight Howard) for $13,770,000.

But last week he decided he couldn’t take it anymore. He was the one impersonating a point guard for the miserable Magic. Second-year player Jameer Nelson was taking more and more of his minutes.

So when Orlando coach Brian Hill asked Francis to enter a 16-point game in the closing minutes, he had to stand up for himself.

It is not easy being Steve Francis.

He has three seasons and $49 million left on his contract — but plenty of battles left to fight.

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