Houston was home to Francis

Times Staff Writer

Both Steve Francis and the Clippers can only wonder what if.

The veteran point almost joined the Clippers in the off-season. Instead, he signed a two-year deal with Houston, where he was a three-time All-Star before being traded to the Orlando Magic along with Cuttino Mobley in 2004.

“I had conversations with the Clippers, the coach, we had some deep conversations up until the last couple of days when I made a decision to come to Houston,” Francis said Monday before the Rockets’ 88-71 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center.

“I made an easier decision I thought was best for my family, my daughter, my wife. We have a home in Houston. We’ve been living there for seven, eight years.”


Mobley, Francis’ longtime friend, was a recruiter in the Clippers’ attempt to land him.

Some in the Clippers organization doubted they ever had a true shot at signing Francis, believing he wanted to play for a team with legitimate title aspirations and a dominant one-two punch in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.

But Francis, an eight-year veteran who was co-rookie of the year with Elton Brand in 1999-2000, said it came down to the Clippers and Rockets, with personal reasons swaying the decision.

At the beginning of the season, he found himself questioning it. He did not play in 11 of the team’s first 13 games and was buried deep on the depth chart.

“Of course, by me not playing the first 11, 12 games, I not only possibly thought of if I should’ve [come] here, but Miami, or Dallas, or Cleveland,” Francis said.

In the two games he’d played before Monday, Francis averaged 9.0 points and 2.5 assists. He played eight minutes against the Clippers, scoring two points.

Now, Francis is left to ponder what would have happened had he signed with the Clippers, who wound up signing Brevin Knight as their backup point guard.

“We’ll never know,” he said.

Reserve point guard Dan Dickau played with a sleeve on his right arm, the result of his having hyperextended his elbow against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. He said the injury is healing quickly.

The Clippers used their ninth starting lineup in 13 games, with veteran forward Aaron Williams making his first start of the season.