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Read this: Olajuwon welcomes hefty load

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Francis3, Feb 20, 2000.

  1. Francis3

    Francis3 Member

    Mar 29, 1999
    Likes Received:
    These young kids and the trash they talk. Carlos Rogers is just going to have to get used to it.

    Rogers was quietly discussing Saturday's workout and today's scheduled return from the injured list. But this Hakeem Olajuwon kid had things he wanted to say.

    "Tell him who won in the paint," Olajuwon shouted from across the locker room. "Ask him. `Who won in the paint?' Ask him, `How does it feel when he gets back on the court with the real guys?' "

    Known to be able to hold his own in the elocution department, and the decibels champion since Charles Barkley's voice left the Rockets' locker room, Rogers found himself in a verbal sparring match with Olajuwon.

    This, of course, beat the more literal battle that ended with Rogers' blood staining his shirt as the price for entering the lane.

    "That's blood," Olajuwon said. "There's no blood on my shirt. Why do you think in the paint, they paint it red? That's blood. I wanted to give him a taste of what it feels like in the paint."

    But now Olajuwon had entered Rogers' world. He had begun to talk and taunt. And Rogers was happy to welcome him.

    "He tried to get me warmed up a bit and look how he welcomed me back," Rogers said, uncovering his blood-stained T-shirt. "Dream busted my lip and hit me in my eye. I'm bleeding already.

    "He had as hard a time guarding me as I had guarding him. That's my blood. Every time I got the ball, he fouled me. I had to pull out my trick shots, worked on my left hand, used my scoops. He grabbed my shoulder and still thinks it's a good block. Impossible."

    This went on for awhile. But the longer each talked, the more they seemed to point not at the Saturday afternoon game just ended, but at tonight's game when Olajuwon and the Rockets will take another swing at the San Antonio Spurs and their inside combination of Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

    Duncan and Robinson dominated Friday in San Antonio and the Spurs won easily. But with Rockets center Kelvin Cato out with a sprained ankle, more responsibility will fall to Olajuwon tonight at Compaq Center. And having spent so many years, including his most glorious, battling Robinson and the Spurs, Olajuwon said little gets him as excited as a chance to revisit the old rivalry.

    This, Rogers finally admitted, was his plan all along.

    "If you come with the same enthusiasm against Duncan and Robinson as you do against me, it's going to be a blowout," said Rogers, who is expected to return after missing 18 games with a thumb injury.

    The Rockets have in many respects moved away from their post-up days when Olajuwon's greatest moments came against the Spurs. They had their most consistent success Friday when they were able to drive from the perimeter, drawing the defense and passing inside.

    But Olajuwon said he still remembers past glories most clearly when facing the Spurs, rather than other championship-run opponents, like the Knicks, Magic or even the relatively unchanged Jazz. And he did not seem to consider the Spurs ancient history.

    "You can't forget that," he said. "The level of competition, it was special, something that was the pinnacle. It's one of those times in your career, you enjoy just thinking about it."

    Though still working his way back into condition 16 games since his return from the injured list, Olajuwon played 20 minutes in the second and third quarters Friday. He started the second half and said he got his second wind more quickly than he had in past games.

    "I was comfortable," he said. "I was running comfortably. Even when I was tired, I recovered."

    Still, the Rockets' style has changed since Olajuwon's Nov. 26 hernia injury, a change Olajuwon endorsed when he returned to the court Jan. 17. And even opponents trying to praise him, offer the backhanded compliment of speaking of him in the past tense.

    "Dream had a great career," said Spurs guard/forward Mario Elie, a former Rockets teammate. "He's still got a little bit left in the tank. It's just time. It's a new era in the NBA. There's a lot of young talent. Dream in the '90s, it was him and (Michael) Jordan."

    But since returning from his layoff, Olajuwon has steadily honed his offensive touch. In the past seven games, he has made 36 of 64 shots (56.3 percent), averaging 11.3 points per game.

    He spent the All-Star break working on his endurance. He has mixed in extra running and half-court games before and after practice.

    Asked if Olajuwon's endurance had improved, Rogers respectfully declined to answer.

    "I take the fifth," he said. "But it's a pro and con thing. When Dream was very effective, '93, '94, '95, those years, it was a post-up, back-down, slow-down type game. Now we're trying to be in condition and getting up and down the floor. For him in order to fit in with the new program, he has to be in shape. We need Dream. As bad as we need Dream, when he's tired, it's like, `We need you Dream, but you can't help us now.'

    "It's a credit to him that every day before and after practice he's out there ready to run because he wants to be a part of what we're doing instead of being one of the old guys that says, `This is how we won and you just throw me the ball, throw me the ball, throw me the ball.' He's trying to do things to fit in with what the new era is trying to bring."

    Rogers has worked well in the Rockets' revised style. But coming back after a long layoff, he said he also would just try to fit in today.

    "I'm not going out there to be a super hero," he said. "I'm just coming back off an injury. I'm not 100 percent. I'm probably about 60. I'm not trying to step in and fill a void. I'm just trying to get to the point I can be consistent.

    "I know I'm not conditioned enough. There's no way I can shoulder that burden. All I can do is go out and see what happens. I did all I could to get healthy. Now I have to do what I can to get in shape. To get in basketball shape you have to play basketball."

    The more he spoke of his return, even at low volume, the more he sounded like the senior center to his left. But the real trick would be to get Olajuwon to sound tonight as he did Saturday -- claiming a hard-fought but valued victory inside.

    [This message has been edited by Francis3 (edited February 20, 2000).]
  2. AroundTheWorld

    AroundTheWorld ಠ_ರೃ
    Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2000
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    Rogers will never be a super-hero even if he is at 150 %. If Hakeem comes to play this Sunday, though, we can beat the Spurs.

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