Sixers’ assistant coach Sam Cassell recently revealed in an interview why Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon never took preseason games seriously.
Hakeem Olajuwon is a legend in the NBA. He dominated the league and opponent, big men, with his nifty footwork and outstanding defense. The former MVP was truly a force to be reckoned with.
The superstar was nicknamed “Hakeem the Dream” due to his unstoppable move “dream shake”. The “Dream” led the Houston Rockets to 2 consecutive championships in 1994 and 1995. The 2x NBA champion also won Defensive Player of The Year during that time.
Sam Cassell came into the NBA in the 1993/94 season, by which time Hakeem was a seasoned veteran. Even though Hakeem was the ultimate professional, he gave a bad impression to rookie Cassell who wanted to see the greatness of Olajuwon from day one.
A year before they captured their first title together, Cassell learned that certain games meant more to Hakeem. The latter schooled him during their first preseason. So, what exactly happened?
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How did Hakeem Olajuwon school rookie Sam Cassell?
Former NBA All-Star and current assistant coach on the Sixers, Sam Cassell recently appeared in an interview with Baron Davis, where he spoke about an incident involving Hakeem Olajuwon. Cassell details a story when the Rockets lost every game in the preseason with Hakeem playing poorly in almost every game.
He goes on to say –
“In my rookie year, we go 0-7 in the preseason…we lose by 40 to GP and Seattle. I remember calling my boy and saying, man, Hakeem Olajuwon, sorry as shit.”
“He was 3-12 and only got 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.”
Veterans like Hakeem usually didn’t take the preseason seriously. They used it as the time to work on fitness and prepare for the regular season. However, Sam Cassell didn’t know this was the case. He thought that Hakeem was washed up and that age was catching up to him. Cassell further comments,
“Opening night comes, we play the Golden State Warriors; Hakeem Olajuwon is out there handling his BUSINESS!!! I’m sitting back, saying, where did this come from? Why didn’t he do this in the preseason? I mean he gave those boys the business. He put on a show. He had like 37 and 15 in 3 quarters.
“When He comes out of the game; I say way to work Dream.”
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Hakeem used it as a teaching moment and said to the rookie,
“Son, preseason don’t count, the popcorn is popping now. Preseason stat sheets, they don’t send to New York, these stats sheets, they send to New York.”
The rookie witnessed the best version of Hakeem as won MVP later that season. They both then went on to win the NBA championship, where Hakeem won Finals MVP.
Cassell knew he had a big leader in Hakeem and learned a lot from him in their consecutive championships run. Let’s hope Cassell uses some of those lessons to teach his players while he is a coach in the league.