Steve Francis and the Beijing Shougang Ducks have been talking for quite a while. But, if the three-time All-Star is going to become the latest former NBA player to sign in China, the two sides are going to have to talk some more.
According to TOM Sports, Beijing came away satisfied after watching Francis workout in Florida for two days and are prepared to enter the final stages of contract negotiations.
Concerned about Francis’ two-year absence from the professional basketball court, team head coach, Min Lulei, arrived in the States on the night of the 11th and watched Francis workout the following two days. Min came away impressed and the team is hoping that Francis will be wearing a Ducks uniform this December, but according to Beijing GM Yuan Chao, there’s still some work to be done on the contract front.
“His conditioning isn’t bad, there’d be no problem for him playing in the CBA,” said Yuan. ”First, we need to look at the contract and see if there are any ‘special provisions’ he may require.”
Beijing, who finished with a mere eight wins last year, is hesitant about overspending on one import player and have been looking for other ways to make Francis’ stay in the capital financially viable, including business cooperations and marketing partnerships that will allow Francis to develop himself brand-wise in China. Various reports from both sides of the ocean have put Francis’ annual salary figure from anywhere as low as $800,000 to as high as $2 million.
With Francis out of professional basketball for two years, the team had major concerns about his physical conditioning and the health of his surgically repaired knee. But, based on feedback from Min, Beijing feels comfortable with Francis’ ability to perform at a high level in China.
“Judging from his workout with Coach Min, Francis has been recovering OK. He’s been training for just more than ten days, but I think he’s actually doing alright. His ability is still there and although it’s not up to NBA level, it won’t be a problem in the CBA.”
“His weight has gone down, he’s looking more or less the same as when he played before.”
Team officials will further review the tape of the workout back in Beijing.
Though Beijing and Francis have real interest in each other, the team has made it clear that it will only sign the three-time All-Star if the money fits into their financial structure. HoopCHINA is reporting that Beijing has also worked out Patrick Beverly, who was cut by the Miami Heat in October, as an insurance policy in case Francis doesn’t work out.
Still, there is hope that something will eventually get done.
“His agent has already sent us the contract, now we have to see if there’s any special demands, because like all of these big name NBA players, the contract is going to be pretty detailed. We have to really take a careful look at everything.”
“We really hope he joins the team, but we need to look at the contract and see if there’s any special clauses, any irrational requirements, etc. We’ve heard that he’s come down on his salary and that he’s gotten rid of some requests. But, we haven’t looked at all the details, so I can’t really disclose anything right now.”