NBA PM: Olajuwon: Still Changing the Game
There are few basketball players who have had the kind of impact on the game that Hakeem Olajuwon had. During his playing days, Olajuwon reinvented the center position with his agility, footwork, and finesse. He could post up, sure, but his ability to dance around opposing players and foil the most intricate defensive schemes helped him carve out a spot in the Hall Of Fame. This morning Yannis Koutroupis wrote about the first half of our interview with Olajuwon, who talked about the impact that Yao Ming had on the NBA and how hard it was to see his career cut short, as well as the current state of the Houston Rockets. If you missed that, you can catch it here!
When Olajuwon was still wearing Houston’s #34, the NBA was filled with franchise players, and nearly every stop on an NBA road trip featured marquee names who were as associated with the teams as the team’s own nicknames. The Utah Jazz had Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Boston Celtics had Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, the San Antonio Spurs had David Robinson, and, of course, for the majority of his career, Hakeem defined the Rockets. Today’s NBA has just as many marquee names, but few seem to impact the game the way those previous legends did. Olajuwon points out that the current trend of having fewer superstars and seeing them team up makes it harder for teams to compete at a high level.
“There are superstars and then there are franchise players,” Olajuwon said. “There are superstars in their own right, but a franchise player is a player who can carry his team to the next level. There are always very few of those in any era, true franchise players. Once you have that player you can build your team around him. Today, the ones who are franchise players are teaming up together, which makes it more difficult for the teams without a superstar or a franchise player. I think in time, when you have guys coming from college who have the potential to be a superstar, they’re going to be drafted by a losing team that can then ultimately be a contender, and that’s what we need to see more of. We need to see college players who are superstars or can be franchise caliber players who can take those teams from being average teams to being a contender.”
Olajuwon didn’t just capture the attention of the NBA with his amazing footwork, he was also one of the very few international players who had made it to the world’s biggest basketball stage. Now a high percentage of NBA players are from other countries, and as Hakeem points out, it’s raising the level of basketball being played on a global scale.
“That just shows you the growth of basketball internationally,” Olajuwon said. “The NBA is the best league in the world, and players from other countries come to prove to themselves that they can play at that level. It’s great for the NBA to open up the door and say that this is the best league and it’s open to all for the best time in the world. It just goes to show that now, when you go to play the other countries around the world, that those are the best players from those countries and they go back and play for their countries. So it’s very competitive. The Dream Team this year, against Lithuania and in the Finals (against Spain), it was a good game. It wasn’t just as easy as it used to be. It was a tough game.”
As the game gets tougher, even the NBA’s elite stars are looking for ways to improve their individual games. More and more, they’re turning to Olajuwon to help them add more to their offensive arsenals. First Kobe Bryant, then Dwight Howard, and now a list of players including LeBron James, JaVale McGee and the Lopez brothers have sought out Olajuwon looking for ways to expand their games.
“It’s a great honor for me, of course, to have the best in the game coming down and you know for sure that you can add tremendous value to their career,” Olajuwon said. “They’re not coming just to come. And when they come, you can see the excitement that they’ve gained something and it was worth their trip. That’s the most important thing to me. The challenge to me is whether or not I can add value. For them to go back, not for the audience, but so they themselves realize what can accomplish. That’s my joy.”
In the Fall, HOOPSWORLD will be running an in-depth feature with many of the players who have worked with Hakeem talking about how working with him impacted their games. In the mean time, it’s great to see an amazing player from the past continuing to have an impact on the game he loved well beyond his career on the court.
Free Agency Odds and Ends
A number of NBA teams are holding workouts and working on deals to fill out their rosters before training camp starts later this month. Here’s a rundown of the latest from around the NBA:
The Minnesota Timberwolves would love to have Anthony Tolliver back on the team, and while they have two open roster spots they can only offer minimum deals because they are right up against the salary cap. The Timberwolves are also looking for an inexpensive option at center, and as HOOPSWORLD reported earlier this week Hassan Whiteside is in Minnesota auditioning for the role.
Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports that the Toronto Raptors are likely to invite Jamaal Magloire and Chris Wright to training camp. The Raptors are looking for toughness to compliment (and challenge) some of their finesse big men, and Wright would fit the bill perfectly.
As HOOPSWORLD reported earlier this week, the Brooklyn Nets will sign Andray Blatche to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract for the 2012-13 season. The New York Post reports that if Blatche, who was amnestied by the Washington Wizards, makes the team he will make $1 million.
The Next NBA Venue?
It is now all but inevitable that the Sacramento Kings will be relocating, but the question remains as to where that might be. Nielsen’s ratings of the top TV markets was recently released, and from that list we can make some educated guesses as to where the Kings might play next. The top 11 TV markets in America already have NBA teams, but from there two of the next three markets are without. Seattle, of course, has an established NBA following and would just need a building. Coming in at 13 is Tampa, which has baseball, football, and hockey as well as an NBA-ready arena. St. Louis ranks just below Sacramento and is known for its rabid sports fans. A potential NBA team could share the St. Louis Blues’ Scotttrade Center. Pittsburgh and Nashville fall into the 20′s and also have NBA-ready arenas.
Here’s a look at the country’s top television markets:
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NBA Chats: There are two chats on tap today featuring Yannis Koutroupis at 11AM EST, followed by salary cap guru Larry Coon at 3PM EST. As always you can checkout our entire upcoming chat schedule along with our previous chats list.