Report: Rockets prepared to hire Hakeem Olajuwon to work with Dwight Howard, Omer Asik
Hakeem Olajuwon is close to joining the Rockets as a mentor to centers Dwight Howard and Omer Asik, according to The Houston Chronicle.
The newspaper reported that the 50-year-old Hall of Fame big man — who helped recruit Howard to Houston and attended Howard’s introductory news conference Saturday — is poised to rejoin the Rockets in an official capacity for the first time since being traded from Houston to Toronto in 2001.
Olajuwon’s duties and title are being discussed, and he will spend much of the year at his home in Jordan. But he will work with Rockets interior players, as he does with big men around the NBA each offseason, as a team employee.
“We are going to bring him in as full-time as is possible,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said Sunday. “It’s not done, but we have mutual interest to get it done, and we’ve had some early discussions.
“We want him to work with Dwight and Omer (Asik), and he wants to do that.”
Olajuwon, one of the best low-post players in NBA history, has tutored Howard during two offseasons, including 2010. Here’s some video of that session:
Olajuwon described his work with Howard to SI.com’s Paul Forrester for a 2011 story about the Dream’s popularity as a tutor among NBA stars. Olajuwon spent three days with Howard in Houston in the summer of 2010.
“We worked for three hours a day. First we worked on the mental part of the game, the different challenge of different players. I told him, ‘If you’re playing someone who is very long, then all of you moves have to be quick moves because you’re not a big man. You play a big man’s position but you are more mobile than a big guy. Make them move.’ He can take a quick dribble, leap and go for the jump hook or a little hook off the glass.
“It’s all about the way you set the guy up. When you jump to catch the ball in the post, your opponent is waiting for you to come down and start your move. But if you spin off as you land, they can’t react to that. And that isn’t because of quickness; it is because the move is predetermined. So we worked on those moves and the footwork. We worked on shooting from short range. Once his little jump hook is there, it opens up all the other moves. For example, if a [defender] drops down into the paint off him, he can bank it off the glass and eventually his man will come out on him.
“I don’t think he realized at first how much he could gain by coming to Houston. But he put in a lot of work and repetition. He’s an animal when it comes to rebounding and blocking shots. Now we’re seeing him use that same leaping ability for his jump hook.”
Asik, Houston’s starting center last season, reportedly requested a trade after Howard agreed to a four-year, $88 million deal with the Rockets. But Morey said the Rockets do not intend to trade Asik, who has two years left on his three-year, $25.1 million contract.