Report: Francis refused to re-enter game
Francis' refusal to re-enter Wednesday night's Magic-Seattle SuperSonics game led the team to suspend the guard indefinitely, The Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday on its Web site.
The newspaper reported that according to team sources, Francis refused coach Brian Hill's decision to send him back into the game with 3:22 left and the Magic trailing 103-87. Stacey Augmon went into the game instead for Hedo Turkoglu, who had fouled out.
That capped a stretch of games in which Francis had complained about the team's offense and appeared disinterested during play, leading the Magic to finally take action, according to the report.
Hill declined comment on Francis, telling the Sentinel "it's a team matter."
Assistant general manager Otis Smith said several meetings with him, Hill and Francis did not uncover what has been bothering the three-time All Star.
"Steve told me he's thinking too much [on the floor]," Smith told the newspaper. "Other than that, I really don't know."
The team will have no further comment on the specifics of the suspension, Magic spokesman Joel Glass said. He said the star guard made the team flight from Seattle to Portland but left the team after he was suspended in the morning.
Smith told the Sentinel the news was "not a complete shock" to Francis and that he "took it like a pro. Is he down? Yes."
Glass said Francis will meet with Hill and Magic executives after the team returns from its West Coast road trip Sunday or Monday. Orlando visits Sacramento on Sunday, then plays host to Washington on Wednesday.
Francis is averaging 16.6 points, second on the team, and a team-high 5.4 assists.
The Magic (13-20) lost 113-104 in Seattle on Wednesday night, the team's fifth loss in its past six games. Francis scored 10 points in that game and 10 the night before in Orlando's 90-73 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and criticized the team's play after that game.
Francis' agent, Jeff Fried, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his office.
The guard was suspended for three games by the NBA late last season for kicking a courtside photographer at Seattle. Orlando fined Francis an undisclosed amount last season after missing a practice following the All-Star break.
He was fined $25,000 after using profanity during a halftime interview at a nationally televised game while playing for Houston in March 2004. He also was suspended one game without pay for missing the Rockets' flight to Phoenix in February 2004.
Asked what he expected of Francis when he returned, Smith said, "I expect the old Steve Francis ... playing with the some passion, like he loves the game. I don't expect anything less and he shouldn't expect anything less."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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