- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Steve Francis is said to be on the move again before tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline, which goes with his nomadic career.

He played for a zillion high schools before he landed in College Park on layover.

His career is starting to have the feel of glorified journeyman, a significant descent for a three-time All-Star.

Of course, Antoine Walker is a three-time All-Star as well, and he long ago morphed into merely one piece of a multi-player trade.

Francis has encouraged his free-fall with snits worthy of a diva.

His sense of who he is always has been greater than his actual value. Now he is lugging around a fat contract, a quirky temperament and dwindling capacity to put his mark on a game, which makes him an appealing candidate of the Isiah Thomas-led Knicks.

The Knicks have come to be the halfway house of the NBA’s contractually challenged and marginally engaged.

Not even Larry Brown, the play-the-right-way basketball guru, has been able to reach the dysfunctional Knicks.

The arrival of Francis, if it comes to be, won’t alter the despondent direction of the Knicks, or anyone else, so long as he sees himself as the lead performer.

Francis is one of yesteryear’s flavors of the moment on the trading block, along with Paul Pierce, Kenyon Martin and Larry Hughes.

Each has been positioned in a number of idle scenarios, none that include the Wizards, who are especially quiet.

The Wizards are not surfacing on any of the gossip lists, which is not to be confused as an endorsement of the team’s post players, notably Brendan Haywood and the Poet.

To be fair, Haywood hardly qualifies as the worst of the inert.

As frustrating as he can be at times, Haywood is as active as half the centers in the Eastern Conference, which does not say much for the quality of those who earn spots in the NBA on the basis of their overactive pituitary glands.

The NBA always has given the benefit of the doubt to the tall, as the travails of Darko Milicic indicate. It remains unclear whether Milicic has the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time, although Mickey Mouse’s team has accepted the assignment to find out.

The chatter involving a potential trade is usually better than the trade itself at this point in the season.

No one in the conference appears capable of derailing the Pistons, not unless Shaquille O’Neal really is able to make a push.

The South Beach experiment known as the Heat has turned out to be so much rearranging of the deck.

Pat Riley’s creation is the No. 2 team in the conference, if only because preseason reports detailing the rise of the conference were greatly exaggerated.

That reality is the most comforting news before the Wizards, who could finish as high as fifth in the conference or finish out of the playoff hunt. They are only one extended losing streak away from oblivion.

Their possible date with oblivion lurks in late March, when the Wizards will be obligated to endure a six-game road trip.

One of the more stunning figures to emerge in the trade banter is Anfernee Hardaway, whose only value is an onerous contract that expires at the end of the season.

Accounting is the daunting element of most personnel exchanges in the NBA, save the Knicks.

The interchangeable nature of all too many players provides relief to the accounting puzzle.

Otherwise, this season’s extraneous activity merely points to the Spurs and Pistons meeting anew in the NBA Finals in June, depending on the health of Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire and the genuineness of the Mavericks.

The Mavericks are no longer the free-flowing sorts of the Don Nelson years.

Yet even as they commit to defense under Avery Johnson, they labor amid a challenge: Show us your new selves when it counts in the postseason.

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