On Tuesday the Rockets' gifted rookie Steve Francis planned an initial public offering of stock in himself, with shares to be traded on the fantasy sports Web site wallstreetsports.com. The feisty point guard out of Maryland has made a habit of going public: This summer he lobbied the Bulls to be the first pick in the 1999 draft, and after Chicago bypassed him in favor of Elton Brand, he told reporters, "The Bulls have made a big mistake." When Vancouver picked him second, Francis—chilly toward playing in Canada—forced a trade to Houston.
Francis knew that after causing so much commotion he'd better pay quick dividends, but his on-court stock wasn't soaring last week. As the Rockets stumbled to an 0-3 record and a shocking 22.3 turnovers per game, Francis contributed 3.7 miscues a night and took a beating on defense. First the Bucks' Sam Cassell torched him for 35 points on 15-of-20 shooting. Two nights later Jazz veteran John Stockton took Francis to school, luring him into a maze of screens and shooting 8 for 8 from the floor. At the end of Francis's first NBA week, opposing point guards were averaging 22.3 points and making nearly two thirds of their shots against him. He was averaging 12.3 on 38.2% shooting.
Rookies who start at the point usually get plenty of slack. Francis forfeited that cushion in the preseason when he challenged anyone and everyone in his path. In a game against the Pistons in which he had 11 turnovers, Francis spent so much time jawing at Jerry Stackhouse that the two nearly came to blows. "The kid's got a problem," Stackhouse said. "Somewhere down the line someone's going to wire his mouth shut."
"It's been a real learning experience," says Francis. No one ever said going public was easy.