Judging by the ice pack, not even Steve Francis himself knew he’d be playing tonight
Next time Min Lulei wants to make Steve Francis the center of a big surprise, he might want to give him a couple minutes warning.
Having said before tonight’s game against Qingdao on numerous occasions that Francis would not make his Beijing debut until at least Friday, coach Min unexpectedly substituted Francis into the game for the final 17 seconds of the Ducks’ 116-107 home opener victory over Qingdao Double Star.
Even just hours before the game, Coach Min indicated to reporters that Francis would not play tonight, as both the player and organization wanted to allow more time for him to improve his conditioning and adapt to the 13 hour time Beijing-New York time difference. But, as game became more and more out of reach in the fourth quarter, large numbers of fans started chanting obscenities towards Min in an effort to get him to change his mind.
With Francis icing his ankle on the bench clearly not expecting to be subbed in, Min inserted him into the game anyway after Beijing’s Jordanian forward, Zaid Abbas, converted on an and-one lay-up on the offensive end. Completely unprepared to enter the game, Francis didn’t even have time to tie his shoes as he quickly shed his warm-up suit and tucked in his jersey before entering the court. With his shoelaces loose and the ice pack around his ankle, Fu Laoda – loosely translated into English as Big Boss Francis – received a loud standing ovation and the obligatory “Fu Laoda, jiayou!” chant from the home crowd as he ran back on defense after the free throw. (In Chinese, jiayou literally means “add oil,” but translated into common English, it would mean “let’s go!” “here we go!” and/or “come on!”) After a Charles Gaines putback for Qingdao, Francis received the inbounds pass and dribbled out the clock, despite cheers from the crowd egging him to shoot one at the buzzer.
He did not record any statistics.
Asked why he decided to against his original plan after the game, Min smiled wryly and answered, “You didn’t see all the fans yelling and swearing at me?”
Beijing center, Randolph Morris, led all scorers with 40 points on 16-23 shooting, while also finishing with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The Ducks are now 1-1 on the season, and will play Shandong at home on Friday, where it is expected that Francis will play significant minutes coming off the bench. The team has consistently stated that they will bring the nine year NBA pro along slowly as he works his way back into shape and acclimates himself to a cross-continental time zone. Though after tonight, its not a stretch to believe that a few well aimed spitballs from a fan could change Min’s thinking on that.