Alexander: “I want to thank everyone for coming. I know Steve and Carroll echo that sentiment. This is a very exciting day. I always use this word for Steve; he is very ferocious and he does whatever it takes to win. He just wants to win. That is what we love here, someone who wants to win. He is one of the great young talents in the NBA and the history of sports. We are thrilled to sign him to this contract. We can go on from here now, and do what we want to do and that’s win championships. Everything we do here is not based on just making it to the playoffs or doing better next season; it’s all based on winning championships and getting a team that can do that. We think we have that. Now, Steve is obviously an integral part of that. There is no better young point guard in this day and age. He will continue to get better because he works hard and has a great work ethic. He cares about the team. he cares about the future. He does everything we want. We are thrilled and excited for this day to occur.”
Francis: “First of all, I definitely want to thank God and my family, the people here in Houston, Les, CD, the coaching staff because to me, ever since I got to Houston, I thought for me to be successful, I would have to be here my entire career. This day to me is a stepping stone of what we have to do, and what the team has to do to get better. Building on some of the younger guys, Eddie, myself, Yao Ming and guys like that. I think this is a very great time in my life, and I am very grateful.”
Q: Are your headaches a thing of the past?
Francis: “I want to say it is because I went to the Mayo Clinic, and they gave me some great news. Ninety percent of the time it goes away.”
Q: Are you relieved to get the contract out of the way?
Francis: “Probably later on tonight I’ll be calm. Right now I am just excited. Like I said to everyone here before, it would be great for me to play my entire career here in Houston.”
Q: Does this feel like you are stabilizing the franchise?
Dawson: “I think this means everything. The building we started in, we have a lot of pieces already in place that we are very excited about. Getting Steve here for the first time was very exciting. Not many people can average points in the twenties and grab eight rebounds. He is a really unique player. The most intriguing part of this young man though, is how he wants to continue to get better and get the team where it needs to be. I think he has all the tools, he has everything it takes. I know he has the respect of everyone in the league. I was talking to a guy yesterday and he was asking me how this was coming along, and I told him it was coming along great. We expect to have it done soon. He then told me he got to sit on the court one time last year and it was the greatest experience. That he had never seen anyone as athletic as Steve Francis and that is so very true. This is just a continuing process. It’s going to be a lot of fun if you like basketball in this city.”
Q: With this contract, do you feel a responsibility to be the team leader?
Francis: “I think this is a part of what I want to do. Not only becoming a leader for my team, but one for the entire NBA. This is a step in the right direction. I think that is the main thing that I have to focus in on. As you know, that you can’t just say you’re a leader. You need to set an example. I don’t think we are in a situation where I don’t have any help. We had a good year my first two years, we had one last year. I think with a lot of guys coming back healthy we will be a team to reckon with.”
Q: Will this help you build a championship team?
Alexander: “To win a championship, signing Steve was a priority. If we had let him walk, it would have sent the franchise back for years. If you have the right people who obviously want to win, you have to keep them.”
Q: What are your expectations for this season?
Francis: “We have to look at the big picture. We have enough talent now to be successful in the Western Conference. I don’t care what team we are playing, all it takes now is to put it together.”
Q: Do you see promise in the team’s future?
Alexander: “No team in the NBA has had this kind of outlook, with Yao Ming, Nachbar, with Glen Rice coming back healthy, Mo Taylor coming back healthy, and Steve Francis coming back healthy. The talent that is coming back now is unbelievable.”
Francis: “To touch on that, it is just going to take us time to come together. I think it will happen. We handpicked this team, we traded for Rice, we traded for Eddie Griffin, we traded for Steve Francis. We got lucky with Steve Francis at the lottery and getting Yao Ming. We have done a lot of things to put a great team together. I think now it is time to put it together.”
Q: Have you met Yao Ming?
Francis: “I have not been able to see him but one of my friends, Baron Davis, told me that he is magnificent. Baron Davis is a guy who knows the NBA and talent and he said he looked good. I think I am going to Indianapolis to check him out.”
Q: Do you think this team needs a leader?
Francis: “The last leader we had was Charles Barkley. Dream was a leader, but he was not very vocal. I think this is a good opportunity for me. Not to be a leader by just talking, or yelling, but by proving things on the court. We will be judge by the things we do on the court, the wins and losses.”