In the second edition of New York Knicks Trade History, a look back at the Steve Francis trade.
The mid-2000s New York Knicks spent time trying to make roster upgrades under the president of basketball operations, Isiah Thomas, who targeted some young talents, but traded long-term assets and handed out lucrative contracts. Most of them did not work out.
One of those less glorified transactions was the acquisition of Steve Francis in 2006, the same player who once played like a star with the Houston Rockets, before a swap with the Orlando Magic for Tracy McGrady.
What happened with this Francis deal? Let’s look back 13 years ago:
What the Knicks traded
Acquiring Francis was not a break-the-bank deal at the time. The Knicks sent two players to Orlando, and it was a recent second-round pick and an aging, injured player, but it went against their favor quickly.
Trevor Ariza was New York’s second-round pick in 2004, and in 116 games, he mostly played off the bench; understandable for a 20 year old, who was not ready for a larger role.
It took Ariza a few years to develop, as he steadily grew into a larger role with the Magic. By 2007-08, however, he was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers, where a career ascension happened and stuck for the next 10 years and counting.
Ariza went on to win two championships with the Lakers, closed in on the NBA Finals with the Houston Rockets and has rarely not played on winning teams as a three-point shooter and wing defender. He still has this ability at age 34.
The lesser side of the equation was Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who arrived from the Phoenix Suns in the Stephon Marbury trade. He was already a shell of himself due to injuries, and he played just 83 games across parts of three seasons in New York.
Hardaway never suited up for Orlando, but he returned two years later to play in the state of Florida, with the Miami Heat.
Who the Knicks acquired
The Knicks acquired Francis when they had a 15-37 record. That is not the ideal time to “buy” in the trade market and vye for improvement. Teams with that mark often send veterans away for young players and draft picks.
Instead, New York not only took on someone who did not play great in 2005-06, but his $49 million over three seasons, which, at the time, was expensive for the smaller NBA salary cap. Expensive contracts like Marbury, Allan Houston and Antonio Davis already counted against the cap, so replacing Hardaway’s expiring money with Francis’ was head-scratching at the time.
It was all towards a league-high payroll, which those 2000s Knicks teams never played up to.
The high-volume opportunities were not as prevalent for Francis in New York as Orlando, as his points per game average dropped to 10.8 in the 24 games after the trade. Injuries derailed what became his only full season at Madison Square Garden, playing just 44 games in 2007-08, with 11.3 points on 40.8 percent shooting.
A 2007 offseason trade took Francis to Portland, who waived him. He had a forgettable 10-game run with the Rockets in 2007-08 and never played another NBA game.
While Ariza did not break out for the Magic, it was one of the many cases of problematic transactions for the New York Knicks in the Thomas era. Francis did not improve the team, and the Knicks were saddled with a bad contract.