Steve Francis talks about the departure of the Grizzlies and the future of the Raptors


The existence and repeated success of the Toronto Raptors has proven against any doubt that an NBA team in Canada is a great idea.


Any concerns about the Canadian market, the fan base, the economy: they were all crushed.

Basketball is booming in Canada by almost every metric and having a professional team in the country has been a huge success.

Of course, this is not always the case.

What about the Vancouver Grizzlies…and what about a “what if” regarding Steve Francis?

What if Steve Francis stayed in Vancouver?

A little bit of a backstory: After four years of the Grizzlies’ existence, Francis was drafted second overall by Vancouver in 1999.

Vancouver was in need of a star player, but they chose Francis — a point guard — despite having Mike Bibby in their roster, who they would have occupied the same second place in the draft slot a year earlier.

Francis told the team he had no interest in playing for a team north of the border, but the Grizzlies’ front office went ahead and picked him up anyway.

Once selected by Vancouver, Francis expected Pepe to start, but Grizzlies GM Stu Jackson and head coach Brian Hill weren’t quite ready to give him the role.

Francis never played for the team after he was traded away from Houston in an 11-man deal later that same year.

“If there was no confusion at the starting point guard position, it would have been an easy transition,” Francis said in an interview with the Daily Hive about what could have made him based in Vancouver.

By 2002, Francis was an All-Star, his first of three consecutive appearances on the annual show.

The Grizzlies left Vancouver in 2001, without a single All-Star selection to their name.

The documentary the grizzly truth, It features Francis as one of the keynote speakers, and helps dive into these questions surrounding Francis and the eventual departure of Vancouver’s NBA team.

“The worst thing about it was people talking about my grandmother and my family. My fans called me all kinds of names. If I can take it, why can’t I go back and talk about how I feel?” Francis talked about why he chose to star in the project to director Cat Jaime, who also created Finding Big Country, which centers around former Grizzlie Bryant Reeves.

“I think good filmmakers, and good documentaries in particular, owe it to their subjects who trust them to tell their story in the right way,” Jaime said of Francis’ involvement in the film. “And I’m very proud of that and I always want to be respectful of those who take the time to share their story.”

Jaime, a big Grizzlies fan who said part of the purpose of the film was to give fellow fans “closure”, was among those wishing Francis stayed in Vancouver.

“I feel like that’s exactly what fan culture is. We love something so much that when it’s taken away from us, we get angry,” Jamie said. “What Steve explained about his story is how players are human too and they have a story and a family. And that’s just something I don’t think as fans, we’ve realized.”

Clearly, some hard feelings are still present: Frances booed by part of the crowd At a recent screening of the film in Vancouver. But Jaime said she feels more comfortable with how things turned out, especially after getting to know Francis and working with him on the documentary.

“I can sympathize with what he was going through and the decision he made,” Jaime added. “It’s a great example of [the player empowerment movement]. He was one of the first in the NBA to do that…and power to them.”

As for whether Francis has any regrets about his career? Just a couple, but nothing major.

“Not really,” Francis said when asked if he wanted any excesses in his NBA tenure. “I couldn’t stick to one system, I’ve had seven coaches in my 10 years…and I should have shot it more.”

But one thing he would like to do? Check out Vancouver closely sometime.

“I like to take a vacation there,” Francis admitted. I didn’t get a chance to see the city.

Grizzlie Truth will be available for purchase at Itunes , Camel, Google Play, Cineplex Store, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, and Cogeco as of January 10th.

Francis’ thoughts on birds of prey

Despite recently going on a six-game losing streak — the longest in two seasons — there are still questions about the Raptors’ long-term prospects.

Toronto is dealing with its budding star Scotty Barnes, a second-year forward, who is dealing with an up-and-down campaign after winning the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year award.

Many were expecting Barnes to make a leap sophomore year, but his points, rebounds, and steals per game have slipped. At least on paper, Barnes didn’t take the big leap expected of him.

And few know more about this transition than Francis, who split Rookie of the Year in 2000 with Elton Brand, before making an All-Star game in the third year of his career.

“He. She she has Being in you to be the captain of the team, Francis said of the challenges ahead for Barnes. “After all the scrutiny I faced in Vancouver, I took it upon myself to try to work harder to be a lot better and the results were shown in court.”

As for Raptors guard Fred Vanfleet?

Well, Francis has some thoughts on him, too, as the highest-paid contract ever awarded to an undrafted player in NBA history.

“I think it’s a great story, to go where he came from to get to where he is,” said Francis.

Like sophomore Barnes, VanVleet has had a tough year for his standards after making his All-Star debut last year.

VanVleet’s triple percentage of 0.327 is the lowest of his career, which has caused intense scrutiny among the fanbase, which is no stranger to Francis.

“When you go from being anonymous until everyone knows who you are, that’s when you have to change your tactics and your approach to the game. You’re on the board.” [in the other team’s scouting report] before every match.

But everything the Raptors have ended up doing in the decades since their founding, the Grizzlies, has been quite the opposite.

The Raptors have won six division titles in the past nine seasons, and were crowned 2019 NBA champions. The Grizzlies didn’t make the playoffs before moving to Memphis.

And Francis admitted that he wasn’t always so sure of the NBA’s success in Canada.

“I’m amazed. I wasn’t sure if there was any hope of building that in Toronto,” Francis said of seeing the Raptors win the title. “The championship was phenomenal. To be at the top level of the entire NBA, many people in the United States and around the world saw them as the team to beat.”

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