Hakeem to help with Rockets' Howard dream

BY foxsports • July 13, 2012

Step 1 would be Houston acquiring Dwight Howard. Then it would be Hakeem Olajuwon's turn.

"I'm Step 2," the Hall of Fame center said Friday.
Olajuwon said he has been asked by the Rockets to talk to Howard about signing to remain long-term with Houston if a deal goes through to get the star center from Orlando. Olajuwon, who starred for the Rockets from 1984-2001 and led them to titles in 1994 and 1995, said he has accepted the possibility of speaking to Howard, whom he knows well and has brought in for workouts the past two summers at his ranch outside Houston.
In a phone interview with FOX Sports Florida from Amman, Jordan, where he lives half the year, Olajuwon said the request came from up high in the Rockets organization. He said it was relayed last week from Rockets athletic trainer Keith Jones to his personal assistant in Texas, who contacted Olajuwon in Jordan.
"The Rockets asked me to reach out, and I'll talk to him (if the deal goes through)," Olajuwon said of Howard, who can become a free agent next summer and could arrive in Houston with no guarantee he will stay past 2012-13. "I'd like the talk to be more like real, and I'll let him make his decisions after that."
Olajuwon said the Rockets are doing whatever they can to land the seven-year veteran and believes the chances are "really high" of it happening. Houston on Friday waived rugged forward Luis Scola under the NBA's amnesty rule in order to clear cap room to possibly take back salaries the Magic want to dump in a possible Howard deal.
"Not too many teams are willing to take the chance," Olajuwon said of teams wary of trading for Howard with no guarantee he will re-sign. "Les (Alexander, Houston's owner) is not afraid to make a big step like that… (Such a trade would be) very risky if you don't get a firm commitment (from Howard about staying)."
Olajuwon, who hopes the Rockets acquire Howard, said if that happens his mission would be to help make the center "comfortable to extend" a deal with the Rockets. Olajuwon, who returns to Texas in early August, said he would want to speak with Howard soon after a possible acquisition but acknowledged the strong chance he would want to take a whole season with Houston before making any decisions on his future.
"For the Rockets, of course I could encourage him, but ultimately he has to do what's best for his career," Olajuwon said. "Of course, Houston is a great city. A lot of players settle in Houston. Wherever he goes, he's going to be a franchise player for that team. Does he want to try to win a championship sooner (rather) than later? Then I'm sure he's (thinking of) teaming up with superstars to get to that level. I don't know, in that case, who he will team up with in Houston that can give him that (immediately)."
But Olajuwon is confident the Rockets would be able to build a solid supporting cast around Howard.
"Les Alexander is very bold, and he'll make a big splash," Olajuwon said. "I admire him for that."
With Howard's ability to become a free agent next summer, Olajuwon said it ultimately comes down to where Howard wants to play in 2013-14. Olajuwon said Howard told him at last summer's workout there was one team at the time for which he most wanted to play.
Olajuwon called that "confidential" and declined to say if that team is the Lakers, who are also in the mix to land Howard. But Olajuwon said Howard did not say the team was the Nets, who were considered the leading candidate to acquire Howard until they all but pulled out of the running earlier this week.
"I was surprised when he was dealing with the Nets because he didn't mention them to me," Olajuwon said.
If the Rockets get Howard and Olajuwon is called into action, he will bring up Houston's big-man tradition. In addition to Olajuwon, the team has had Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes and Ralph Sampson, and Yao Ming eventually could be enshrined.
"Houston is known for big men," Olajuwon said. "So (Howard's) in the right company, no question about it."
Sounds like Olajuwon already is working on a speech to give Howard.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com
or on Twitter @christomasson

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