Rockets' Hakeem Might Keep Playing

Friday, October 27th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

HOUSTON (AP) — Hakeem Olajuwon is feeling so good heading into what is supposed to be his final NBA season that he might keep right on playing.

``If I say I'm retiring now, then it's over, it sounds final,'' the Houston Rockets center said in the Houston Chronicle on Friday. ``I just want to leave the possibilities open.''

The 37-year-old Olajuwon, a former two-time Most Valuable Player in the NBA Finals and the league's all-time leading shot blocker, said he would hold no grudge if the Rockets do not want him when his contract expires at the end of this year.

He will make $16.7 million this year, his 17th with the Rockets.

``I have enjoyed training camp so much,'' he said. ``I came into it not knowing if I was going to be able to play at all. I was concerned about the asthma returning. But the doctors have gotten the medicine working perfectly and I've trained to get myself in great shape. I feel better than I have in years. I'm pain-free and I want to see what that will allow me to do before I make any final decisions.''

Olajuwon last year was limited to 44 games, averaging a career-low 10.3 points as he was slowed by a hernia and asthma.

``It is so early and we haven't played a game yet to see how things will work out,'' Olajuwon said. ``Why close the door?''

What he doesn't want is a farewell tour, with other teams giving him gifts and holding news conferences for him.

``I don't want to be getting rocking chairs like Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar),'' he said. ``That's not me. It's not my personality.''

Olajuwon shared his sentiments Thursday with coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

``I respect his decision,'' Tomjanovich said. ``But I told him I was surprised. ... I didn't think he was thinking that way.''

``With the way that I feel, with my health back and my legs back, it has given me a new outlook,'' Olajuwon said. ``I feel fresh. I feel good. I still like to play basketball. I would just like to see how well I can play.

``If I play well and the Rockets want to talk to me about next season, maybe we'll talk. If I play well enough to satisfy me and they want to go in another direction, that is fine. I'll wish them well and consider the possibilities. Maybe somebody would want me to help them.''


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