The Cat Is Out of Orlando

By Stephen Alford
Updated: January 11, 2005

Cuttino "The Cat" Mobley
Cuttino “The Cat” Mobley

BOSTON, MA.—Thirty minutes before the Magic were to tip off against the Boston Celtics, Orlando players and coaches received word that shooting guard Cuttino “Cat” Mobley had been traded to the Sacramento Kings for guard Doug Christie and forward Michael Bradley. A visibly upset and listless Steve Francis found it hard to concentrate on the game in its early stages, and as a result, the Orlando Magic were trounced by the Celtics 119-101 in front of 13,731 live witnesses at the FleetCenter.

“It was hard for me to play, he’s my brother,” admitted Stevie Franchise after the game. “I’ve played with him my whole career so I wasn’t as focused as I normally am as far as going out and playing.”

Mobley and Francis were at times considered one of the best backcourt tandems in the League during the five years they spent together with the Houston Rockets. The two were traded along with Kelvin Cato for Tracy McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyrone Lue, and Reece Gaines in hopes of turning the franchise from a 21-61 basement team to a playoff contender. And with the help of a healthy Grant Hill and rookie Dwight Howard, the Magic seemed like they were on the right track.

“That just shows you. You got to be professional about something like that,” continued Francis. “Management should be professional about it. You don’t wait 30 minutes before a game until a guy is traded. It’s plain and simple.”

“Right before we were getting ready to head out to the layup line, Coach (Davis) let us know,” said Grant Hill, who finished the game with 15 points – including a nasty baseline yoke on Raef LaFrentz in the first quarter – nine assists, three steals, and two blocks. “It’s tough, you know. I didn’t play with the guy for two months and it’s tough for me. That’s the NBA: a lot of good and unfortunately, some bad. And that’s part of the bad. It’s not the first time a teammate has been traded and it won’t be the last. You just got to deal with it and try to remain professional.”

Francis struggled with being “a professional” in the opening period. After playing nearly four minutes of uninspired basketball and with Orlando trailing 13-4, Coach Johnny Davis opted to sit Stevie Franchise down in favor of rookie Jameer Nelson. “He (Francis) gave (this game) a shot,” said Coach Davis. “He was emotionally drained and I thought his play reflected that. He tried to get himself involved in the game but he clearly lost desire.”

Francis bounced back to score 10 points in the second quarter (5-for-9 from the field) but the Celtics still managed to outscore Orlando 33-24 in the quarter behind some strong play from the Celtics bench. opened the second quarter with a six-point deficit, and by the time the Celtics starters were inserted back into the game with 5:46 remaining in the first half, Boston had built a 19-point lead. By the end of the first half, Boston had a 15-point cushion (65-50) while shooting 54.2% from the field for the quarter.

“I’m sad,” said Cuttino Mobley when asked about the trade at halftime. “I don’t know what the situation was. Maybe they were scared I wouldn’t sign back.”

Mobley was referring to his option to forego the final year of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season while Christie, on the other hand, is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $48 million contract. Orlando is hoping that Christie will give the Magic a defensive stopper in the backcourt.

“We felt that Doug was a perfect fit for the chemistry of our team right now,” said Magic general manager John Weisbrod. “He’s a tremendous passer and defender, he’s accustomed to playing an up-tempo offense and he brings valuable playoff experience. Cuttino is a very difficult piece to give up – one of my favorite people – but we need to use our depth at shooting guard to fill the areas in which we’re deficient.”

Boston led by 30 in the fourth quarter after rookie Tony Allen, who scored 16 points in 20 minutes (6-for-12 from the field, 1-for-2 from beyond the arc, perfect 3 from the charity stripe) beat his chest after nailing a three-point basket on the baseline by the Orlando bench. Orlando was able to pull within 15 points with 2:58 remaining in regulation but Ricky Davis put the nail in the coffin when he stole the ball from Jameer Nelson and cradle reverse dunked it as Nelson attempted to swipe the ball from behind.

Stevie Franchise collected himself after the first quarter and finished the game with 18 points (8-for-15 from the field, no-for-1 from beyond the arc, 2-for-3 from the charity stripe) but only dished out two assists in the 27 minutes of action that he logged.

“For us, not only myself, but for everybody we were pretty much emotionally drained,” said the Franchise. “Like I said, I can’t even put it into words. Playing with a guy, living with a guy where everyday I wake up I know that’s someone who I can count on – that I’m going to be in practice or in the game with Cuttino. And for him not to be here is going to be tough for me … They messed up something that started so good.”