Francis becomes free agent after Blazers agree to buyout

The Knicks were happy to get Zach Randolph. The Trail Blazers were happy to clear space for Greg Oden. Steve Francis might be the happiest of all.

Steve Francis


The Trail Blazers have agreed to
terms on a buyout with Francis, who was acquired in a
draft night deal with the Knicks.

Francis, who was due $34 million over the final two years of his
contract, was expected to clear waivers and become an unrestricted
free agent.

The terms of the buyout with the Trail Blazers were not
released. The deal was first confirmed Wednesday by the Washington
office of Francis' longtime agent, Jeff Fried.

The Washington Post and Newsday reported on Tuesday that Portland will pay more than $30 million of the $33.6 million that the former All-Star guard is due.

Portland sent Randolph, along with Fred Jones and Dan Dickau, to the Knicks for Francis and Channing Frye on draft night on June 28. Almost immediately word surfaced that the Blazers would try to buy out Francis' deal.

"This was the definition of a win-win situation with Isiah and the Knicks getting Zach Randolph and Steve being the ultimate beneficiary in being bought out," Fried said on Tuesday, according to Newsday.

"This move will provide us greater financial flexibility as we
continue to build a successful team for years to come," Blazers
general manager Kevin Pritchard said.

Francis was acquired just before the trade deadline in 2006 with
the idea that he would play alongside Stephon Marbury in the backcourt.

But Francis never seemed comfortable under Larry Brown or Isiah
Thomas, and left the team last season to rehabilitate an injured
knee in Houston, sparking speculation that the Knicks were trying
to reach a buyout.

The Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers have been rumored to be interested in signing Francis. The guard's longtime friend and former Rockets teammate Cuttino Mobley plays for the Clippers.

According to the Post, Fried said that the buyout allows his client to find the "right fit as opposed to the most money. He doesn't need much to be made whole."

Francis averaged a career-low 11.3 points per game last year, his first full season in New York. He has career averages of 18.4 points and 6.1 assists per game. Francis made the All-Star Game from 2002-04 while with Houston.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.