Francis began his suspension at Portland on Saturday

Updated: March 21, 2005, 10:12 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Orlando guard Steve Francis was suspended three games Monday by the NBA for kicking a courtside photographer last week.

Steve Francis

"This definitely doesn't make it easy," interim coach Chris Jent said before the Magic played the Charlotte Bobcats. "You lose your catalyst, your guy. We have great players, but it's hard to replace Steve Francis."

The NBA initially suspended Francis indefinitely after he kicked a photographer in the fourth quarter of the Magic's loss in Seattle on March 18. After an investigation, the league settled on the three-game suspension.

Francis began his suspension at Portland on Saturday and will sit out Orlando's next two games, both against the Bobcats.

The Magic (32-34) are tied with Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. In their first game without Francis, the Magic won 97-92 to end a season-high seven-game losing streak.

The victory was the first for Jent, who was promoted last week when Johnny Davis was fired because the Magic were underperforming. Now Jent has the toughest task of his young career in keeping Orlando headed in the right direction without its star player. Francis averages 21.4 points and 6.9 assists a game.

Jent said he and Francis plan to meet on Tuesday in Orlando. The two spoke earlier Monday, when Francis learned of the suspension.

"He was matter of fact about it and ready to move on," Jent said. "He said he was looking forward to a great practice the day after tomorrow."

Jameer Nelson, who had been a starter until the Magic moved him to have a scorer come off the bench, takes over for Francis. He scored 15 points against Portland.

Jent said he and Francis planned to meet on Tuesday in Orlando, but the talk would be strictly basketball-related with Francis offering what he has observed from watching the Magic on television. The two have already discussed Francis kicking the photographer.

"I told him the act was inexcusable, but that in the larger picture, it depicts him as someone he's not," Jent said. "He really has a heart of gold, and an act like this portrays him as something different between the lines and it really cheats himself."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press