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Friday September 19, 2008 2:41 PM

Five Minutes with Steve Francis


Fan-favorite hoping for bounce back season after injury-plagued year

Jason Friedman
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON - The draft is done. The free agent frenzy and Olympics are, too. Preseason is still a couple weeks away. Yep, we've officially entered hoops hibernation.

So to get you through the basketball void, Rockets.com will spend the next few weeks catching up with various members of the team to find out what they've been up to this summer. The tour continues today as we chat with Steve Francis.

JCF: First things first: I gotta tell you - I get more emails about you and your comeback from injury than I do about any other player on the team. It's unreal. Do you have any idea how many people are interested in you and how you're doing?

SF: I think it's because this is where I began my career. I've grown to love Houston, the Rockets and everybody. And it's overwhelming and it feels great knowing that I have the opportunity to make this team better.

JCF: So let's get right to the question everybody wants to know: Everyone wants to find out if we're going to see the old Steve Francis again. How are you doing physically?

SF: I'm not going to sit here and say I'm 100% because I'm not. I still have a ways to go. It's going to be a tough process, but I'm willing to sacrifice. Even if I don't start the season, I know within the next three or four weeks I'll be 100%. I don't want to go out there if I'm not 100% and possibly re-injure myself.

JCF: So you're looking at another three or four weeks until you're 100%, or before you can go full-out on the court?

SF: Before I can go full-out. The surgery I had, they say it normally takes people about a year to come back. I'm at month six and hopefully within the next three to four weeks I'll be ready to go.

JCF: What have you been able to do during the summer?

SF: I've just been rehabbing and I just really started hitting the court about two weeks ago. I wasn't playing, I was just swimming and doing things like that. It's been a process and I made a schedule for myself so I don't try to rush myself to get back because that's what hurt me last time.

JCF: So you have a personal trainer?

SF: I have my own trainer, Anthony Falsone. Me and Yao use the same trainer and he's been doing a good job.

JCF: And basically all you've been able to do cardio-wise is swimming so far?

SF: Swimming, yeah. Nothing pounding because obviously, if you ask any doctor, that would re-injure it before it gets better.

JCF: So you feel like cardio is the biggest thing holding you back right now?

SF: Stamina, yeah, because I haven't played in like eight months. It's tough, but I'm a fighter and I'm fighting through it.

JCF: You said doctors say it typically takes about a year to get back to full-strength. Do you feel like it's likely you'll be more of a factor in the second half of the season, because it's just unrealistic you'll be able to come flying right out of the gate?

SF: Hopefully. I mean, I'm realistic. I don't know. I just have to get here and get going in training camp and practice. But as you can see, I've been working my [butt] off. I lost ten pounds. Last year, they said I was too fat. Now I'm 195 pounds, so there's really nothing else I can do to get my stamina back.

JCF: So is that the weight you're hoping to stay at?

SF: Hopefully (laughs). I'll try.

JCF: I guess it's tough when you can't do too much running around?

SF: Exactly.

JCF: Have you been able to do any weight-lifting?

SF: Yeah, I've been lifting here and there. But like I said, man, I'm gonna be ready.

JCF: What do you see your role being with this team?

SF: I'll know once I get to training camp. I just have to prove it there, even if I don't do the contact drills. Once I get an opportunity and a chance to get out there, I'm definitely going to do a lot.

JCF: I asked Rafer and Aaron this same question, so I'll ask you as well: When you look around and see the weapons this team has with guys like Artest and Barry joining Yao, T-Mac and Scola, I feel like it's got to be a point guard's dream come true. Does that provide motivation for you to get back out there?

SF: It does. I think that we're all competing to do the same thing. I think it'll be good - it's like every position we have by committee. We have three guys who can come in and give you this amount of minutes and be successful.

JCF: Now there are a ton of doubters out there with regard to your ability to come back. How do they affect you?

SF: I don't even worry about that.

JCF: What about the people who say you've already made your money so the fire is gone?

SF: Right. I don't even worry about it. I've been getting paid for ten years, so it aint about the money, you know what I'm saying? It's about me getting out there and being able to play.

JCF: Considering everything you've gone through the last few years, has that re-ignited your passion to play?

SF: All I do is look at old tapes all day. I look at old tapes of myself and other players and that fuels me right there.

Have a comment, critique or suggestion for Rockets.com? Contact Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com