At the end of June, we noted that New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire has plans to work with Houston Rockets legend and master of the post Hakeem Olajuwon this summer. It's the latest in a long line of high-profile consultations for Hakeem, with stars like Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant visiting for a few sessions.
Up until now, these players have sought out Olajuwon for help. However, perhaps spurred on by the success of previous training, Hakeem wants to reach out and help a young player improve his post skills: Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Serge Ibaka. From Darnell Mayberry for The Oklahoman (via SLAM):
Hakeem Olajuwon has reached out to Thunder coach Scott Brooks to determine if and perhaps when he might be able to work with Ibaka on his offensive game. Olajuwon's representatives contacted Brooks, who teamed with the former Rockets star, via text on Tuesday.
Olajuwon originally expressed his interest in working with Ibaka to Fox Sports last month, saying the Thunder's runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year "needs it." Brooks on Tuesday told The Oklahoman that he loves the idea.
"I played with Hakeem for three years," Brooks said of his stint with Olajuwon and the Rockets from 1992-95. "He's one of the best to ever play the game. Anytime you can get players that played at a high level that can share their insight, you have to take advantage of it."
Ibaka has a small window of availability this summer. He will compete for Spain in the London Olympics, which run from July 27 through August 12. It's unclear what Ibaka's plans are beyond that. Typically, many Thunder players reconvene in Oklahoma City several weeks prior to the start of training camp to begin voluntary workouts as a team.
It makes total sense that Brooks would support this team-up, and if Ibaka can carve out time in his busy schedule a meeting would undoubtedly be a great idea. Ibaka is a young player with an expanding offensive game, but he typically scores on mid-range jumpers and catches at the rim. A post game would make him a truly fearsome option and give the Thunder an added dimension in an already great offense.
We shouldn't exaggerate the effect of Olajuwon's work with players — they meet for a few days at most, and real improvement depends on the active player committing himself to expanding his game. But if Hakeem wants to work with a player, that means he sees someone with potential to be great. There are few reasons not to listen.
Plus, if he actively seeks out players, then that's a good development for the league. His work with LeBron, Kobe and Howard was impressive and very cool, but it also had the feel of a secret superstar club spending exclusive time together. Ibaka is a very, very good player, but he's not exactly one of the titans of the NBA. If this goes well, maybe Hakeem will look to help other youngsters in need of help. Just imagine him as the Johnny Appleseed of post moves, spreading his knowledge all across this great land.