Stein's Daily Dime: Rockets delay Hakeem's party

The Rockets will honor Hakeem Olajuwon. Just not on the same night as Yao Ming's debut.

Originally Published: October 21, 2002
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Nothing has changed in Toronto. Don't expect Hakeem Olajuwon to play another NBA game.

Plans are a little more fluid in Houston. Don't expect Dream to be feted with a sendoff at Compaq Center on Nov. 2.

Hakeem Olajuwon
Hakeem Olajuwon may get to thank Rockets fans on Nov. 9 now.
The Houston Rockets are definitely eager to throw a Dream Appreciation Night sometime next month, or whenever Dream decides to officially end his career. The Rockets simply prefer not to throw it on the same night Yao Ming plays his first home game in Rockets pinstripes.

In fact, Olajuwon's agent told a Houston television station Thursday night that Dream will call it a career on Nov. 9, on week after Yao's debut.

It was reportedly Dream's idea to fade away for good on Nov. 2, because that's when his Toronto Raptors make their only Houston visit of the season. The Rockets, though, don't want to detract from Yao's moment -- and they also want to do a Dream ceremony justice. So they talked with Olajuwon's people to find another day for a retirement announcement. The Rockets play host to Golden State on Nov. 9.

Of course, with $12 million still left on Dream's contract and no money resolution yet, plans could still change. If a retirement ceremony at Compaq complicates Olajuwon's efforts to collect the cash -- since players generally forfeit money by simply walking away from guaranteed contracts -- Olajuwon would undoubtedly vote for a postponment. The Raptors, meanwhile, remain as curious as anyone, since Olajuwon hasn't been in contact with the club for weeks. Toronto plans to open the season with Olajuwon on the injured list, waiting for the independent medical examinations required to determine if insurance will cover 80 percent of Dream's remaining salary. According to the Raptors' doctors, Olajuwon has a career-ending back injury and other myriad joint ailments.

You can be sure, either before or after all that drama plays out, Yao will be eager to stand beside Dream in Clutch City, whenever it happens. Yao's new employers didn't even know this until recently, but as far back as 1997 -- when Yao participated in his first Nike Euro Camp as a 17-year-old -- he listed his favorite team in the camp media guide as the Houston Rockets.

Yao's favorite player, as indicated on Page 35? Hakeem Olajuwon.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. E-mail him at marc.stein@espn3.com.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

ALSO SEE