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Rockets center addresses the media on his blood condition

Prior to Houston's game vs. New Jersey Thursday at Compaq Center, Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon and Rockets team physician Dr. James Muntz met with the media to discuss the blood condition which will force Olajuwon to miss the remainder of the 2000-2001 season. The following is a transcript of the press conference.

Opening statement by Dr. James Muntz:
Thanks very much for asking us to be here. We wanted to come and explain the medical situation with Hakeem. He wants you all to know that he signed with an NFL team starting tomorrow (laughs). His diagnosis appears to be a blood clot in the vein in the lower extremity. He's already been treated with an injectful medication and started on oral medication. He has responded extremely well and I expect him to do excellent with the treatment and I expect him to have full recovery and be able to come back probably next year. I'm not sure about this year, but for sure be able to play next year or longer if he wants to. Again, I expect him to do extremely well with his treatment and to come back and play again.

Hakeem Olajuwon: He said it all. First of all, I'd like to thank everybody for coming this evening to this press conference. This is just a confirmation and explanation of my situation to be very clear for the doctor and also for myself how I'm feeling.

It was a surprise to me because it was something that was very minor in the beginning and I was trying to play through it. I found out the leg was swelling and it was a blood clot. From my medication I have been taking now, the swelling has gone down tremendously. I'm not feeling any pain and I feel comfortable. I can do everything that I like to do except participate in contact sports where I might risk injury because my blood is so thin. But everything else I can do; I feel comfortable.

It's nothing major and I'm very blessed that if you have to choose any injuries this would be the least of the problems because I feel healthy. I'm fine. I can come out and watch the games. The only frustrating part is that I won't be able to participate, but now I can join you guys to watch.


Q: How does this affect your decision to come back and play again?

Hakeem: Well, my position from the beginning is to play out this year, look at all the options and then make a decision. So this is just another confirmation to give me extra motivation to really want to play again for next year.


Q: Basketball was fun for you again, wasn't it?

Hakeem: I mean I was just getting comfortable. But that's life. Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan. This is God's plan. I just try to count my blessings and see that in this situation I can watch the games, spend more time at home with my family. So you look at that side of the picture, I love to be on the floor, to do my part for the team. If I can't do that physically, then I'll try to do it morally with the guys to help them get into the playoffs.


Q: Will this affect your ability to play basketball next season?

Hakeem: When I get to that bridge, I'll cross it. What's important is how is my health? Can this be corrected? From the doctor, this is not new - other people have the same thing with the blood clot. So it can be corrected and this should not disturb my decision to play basketball.


Q: How do you feel now?

Hakeem: The swelling has gone down, I'm walking normally. I don't feel any pain. I was just advised to not get involved in physical contact because of risk of injury.

Dr. Muntz: We would like to treat him for at least three months if not six. There are very good guidelines with studies that have been done that that would be the best treatment. He'll get the best recovery and function should return by doing that.


Q: Would you like to come back to the Rockets if they sign a big free agent and become a championship contender?

Hakeem: I can't speak on that. My situation is trying to get myself healthy and trained to feel the way I was feeling when I was playing this year. This was actually the first year in a long time that I wasn't feeling any pain and I was very comfortable. A lot of controversy in the beginning made it difficult. Then I got back on the right track and I was having fun. So I would like to be in that position again.


Q: Would you like to finish out your career in Houston with the Rockets?

Hakeem: I've been here for 20 years and I've played in the old uniform and the new uniform. So the most important thing for me is that I thought the chemistry that we had before the injury was great. Everybody felt comfortable, the coaching staff, my teammates. I get along with all the team, so really this is my home. It's an ideal situation. But nevertheless I can't make decisions for them. So I'll have to do what's best for everybody.


Q: Will you still be around the team a lot?

Hakeem: Of course. If I can't play physically, I'll give moral support because I'm still a part of the team.


Q: What will you do in the offseason?

Hakeem: I have to go with the mindset this summer as if I'm playing next year. So I'll have to train. You have to have a goal to shoot for. What kind of condition, how you want to play. Do you want to play or do you want to play to dominate? So you have to work hard to get to that point.


Q: What do you say to the media that says your career is over or that just kind of write you off?

Hakeem: They've basically been doing that for three years. You always know that when they write you off you always have to re-establish yourself again. So I'm getting used to it.


Q: So you can continue to work out now?

Hakeem: I can maintain fitness but I can't shoot a basketball, right doctor?

Dr. Muntz: I think one of the reasons Hakeem came here tonight is to show everybody that he's healthy. He looks great, he's not limping, he doesn't have IV lines going. When he wasn't here the other night people were concerned he was sick or in the hospital and that's just not the case.


Q: You've had such a great career, posting huge numbers, how was your pride that everybody was so excited for you when you were posting double-doubles recently?

Hakeem: Well, it was gratifying. Also I was also surprised they were talking about double-doubles. It was something like it was a big issue. For a big man I think that's a standard. Now you do something like a quadruple-double, that becomes news. All of a sudden today, double-doubles become a big deal. I was surprised about that to feel like that was something. To me I think I set a high standard that I can do much better.


Q: When will you know it's time to retire?

Hakeem: When you make that decision, you don't look back and you go forward. But it's an individual decision where you know you get to that point that you feel like it's time, and then you go out. And when I go out, I don't want it to be because of basketball. Maybe because of the traveling, where it becomes demanding of your time, you think it's time. But not because of basketball because basketball is much easier now than ever before. The rules have changed tremendously to where it's really a non-contact sport. You can't touch people. Before it was very physical, it was much tougher.


Q: Looking back at your career, is there one game or moment that stands out in your mind?

Hakeem: I remember my first year and my last year. Everything in between, the championship years are the only thing I remember because it's been so long.