Suns News

Suns Big Men Receive Dream Teacher

Gortat said that Olajuwon's mental approach was just as impressive as his moves.
(Jeramie McPeek/
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Dec. 13, 2011

If you want to be a great lawyer, you go to law school. If you want to be a classically-trained dancer, you go to Julliard. If you want to be a dominating big man in the NBA, you go to Hakeem Olajuwon.

Suns centers Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez and Garret Siler all traveled to Houston to see the Hall of Famer this summer, eager to pick up a thing or two from the legendary pivot.

“It was a great experience obviously to work with the guy who’s got the best post game of all-time probably,” Gortat said. “It was a huge honor for me and for Garret and we definitely believe that we learned something.”

Hall of Fame coach Pete Newell, who was world-renowned for his famous “big man camp,” said Olajuwon had the best footwork he’s ever seen in his decades of coaching. And now the former Newell student has become the master, running his own big man camp for up-and-coming centers.

Suns GM Lance Blanks sent Gortat and Siler there to develop their offensive repertoire from “The Dream.” “The Polish Hammer” claimed that he trained with Olajuwon for three hours a day for six weeks in a row.

According to Gortat, Olajuwon worked out with them in the beginning of the week. But as the week went on, the 48-year-old legend instructed more from the sideline.

Not only did the former NBA Champion stress the importance of footwork, but he also attempted to give his pupils insight into his mentality.

“It was just great to hear all these stories about the way he was working out and the way he was getting ready,” Gortat said. “The one thing I am really proud of, he said that he learned through his career, was that lifting was really good for him and that he started doing it after a couple years of being in the league. I’ve been doing it since day one, so that’s a good thing I’m proud of.”

Not only did working out with Olajuwon provide Gortat with a ton of confidence, but chatting with him after their training sessions paid even more dividends. For Lopez, learning from the legend was a very similar experience.

The fourth-year Suns center wanted Olajuwon’s tutelage so badly that he went to see him on his own dime.

“It’s just an eye-opener,” Lopez said. “He has so many moves down on the post that it’s just impossible to learn them all. You have to pick one or two moves and go from there.”

Both players wanted to curb expectations though. Just because they learned from one of the greatest, it doesn’t mean that they will have Olajuwon’s results the next time they step on the court.

“I know people expect a lot from me, and I know they expect me to show the ‘Dream Shake,’ pump fakes and things like that, but I think we have to just slow down and take a deep breath,” Gortat said. “If there’s an opportunity where I can hit somebody with some Hakeem stuff, I’m going to try to do it. But I’m going to try to play a simple game of scoring and play defense.”

When asked if he would incorporate the “Dream Shake” into his repertoire, he provided an analogy.

“You know how Magic said he had the baby hook?” he asked. “I guess I’ve got the baby, baby, baby, baby, baby Dream Shake.”

If they ever begin to struggle during the season, Olajuwon furnishes all of his students with DVDs from their workouts so they can recall their lessons. This way, they can always go back to basics when needed.

Although it’s just the beginning of the season, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry is already seeing their work pay dividends, especially with their footwork. Since the Suns don’t have an enormous, overpowering center, Gentry would like his big men to be more skilled than opponents on the offensive end.

“I think they’ve all grown from that experience and I think it was real beneficial for them to be there,” Gentry said. “Just from an intellectual standpoint it had to be helpful, and he was also on the court with them for a ton of hours. That couldn’t have done anything but help them.”

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