Friday, October 9, 2009

Russell Westbrook, Meet Steve Francis

Russell Westbrook just completed his rookie season and many experts and pundits are predicting stardom. The explosive 6'3" guard from UCLA put up 15 ppg and over 5 apg while frequently getting on SportsCenter for his highlight dunks and acrobatic forays to the bucket. Few people talk about the fact that he shot under 40% or that his TO/Ast ratio was less than stellar- 5.3/3.3. The team finished 23-59 and was outscored by 6 ppg. Yuck.

When he first came into the league, Steve Francis was hailed as a game-changer- a freakishly athletic 6'3" guard who could dunk on anyone but still needed to learn the nuances of managing an offense and distributing the ball. His rookie season, Francis averaged an impressive 18 ppg to go with 6.6 apg and over 5 rpg. He shot an amazing 45% from the floor, a testament to his ability to finish at the rim. He also turned the ball over 4 times a game, an alarming rate even for a rookie. The team finished 34-48 but nobody in the organization blamed their shining star, who was dubbed Stevie Franchise. You know where the story goes from here. Francis NEVER got the hang of running an offense without turning the ball over. As injuries mounted, his trademark athleticism declined with his shooting percentage. He clashed with Jeff Van Gundy, got traded to Orlando, clashed with Brian Hill, got traded, and finally ended up on that disastrous sinking ship known as Isiah's Knicks. He played 10 games for Houston in 2007/8 before retiring.

I hope I'm off-base with this comparison. Westbrook seems like a much cooler dude than Francis, who acted like a bitch from the second he was drafted (holla back, Vancouver). I was actually happy to see Francis' career crash and burn.

Pictured: Stevie Franchise, riches to rags story

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