Sunday, May 06, 2007

Olajuwon makes presence felt for Game 7

The Rockets got a little extra mojo for Saturday's Game 7 against the Utah Jazz.

They could have used the player who brought it, too.

Indeed, while the Rockets were thinking about the Jazz, Hakeem Olajuwon, the cornerstone of past greatness, decided it was time to stop by Toyota Center for a visit.

The Rockets were attempting to advance past the first round for the first time since 1997 — when a certain 7-foot center led the team to the Western Conference finals — and that's all the lure Olajuwon needed to hop on a jet and fly from his home in Jordan, even if he did see them lose 103-99 to Utah.

"This is wonderful," Olajuwon said. "The old memories of Game 7s at home ... you can't be in a better position."

Olajuwon's position Saturday was courtside with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander. Not too long before, he was at home in Jordan, but the more he thought about the Rockets playing a Game 7 at home, the more restless he got to again experience the sights and sounds of such a pressure-packed situation like those he enjoyed as a player.

"Yes, I had to come here for Game 7," Olajuwon said. "Yeah. Of course. I missed this whole season, but this is a unique position. I think the Rockets are in a unique position this year, so I needed to be here.

From Jordan to Houston — the longest road trip in NBA history.

"No problem," said Olajuwon, laughing.

When Olajuwon's picture was flashed on the scoreboard with 3:31 to play in the second period, it gave Rockets fans a rare moment to cheer. Utah was on its way to a 10-point halftime lead.

Soon it will be time for the game to reciprocate. Olajuwon is eligible for the Hall of Fame, and he's a lock to be inducted.

Olajuwon was a 12-time All-Star, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year (1993, '94), NBA MVP (1994), a two-time Finals MVP (1994 and '95), one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players (1997) and an Olympic gold medalist (1996).

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