It was Coleman's absence in the preseason, while he was adapting to medication for an irregular heartbeat, that allowed Silas to restructure his backcourt Jamal Mashburn moved to Coleman's forward spot and was replaced as shooting guard by last year's point guard, 6'1" David Wesley. The muscular Davis often helps lighten Wesley's load by covering the opposing two guard. "Baron isn't like a lot of young guys," Wesley says. "He'll listen, take criticism and try to get better."
Olajuwon and the Rockets
A Dream Run Nears Its End
Last week Hakeem Olajuwon rejoined the Rockets after missing 12 games with a cyst in his right knee. While he was sidelined, Olajuwon asked Houston to consider trading him or releasing him outright because he didn't feel that he fit in with the Rockets. The center's $16.5 million salary made it almost impossible to trade him, and the Rockets were adamant about not waiving him because they think he can help them make a run at the playoffs. After meeting with owner Les Alexander and coach Rudy Tomjanovich, Olajuwon apparently felt better about finishing the season with Houston.
"We had been spreading the floor, but now we're going inside to him more," says second-year point guard Steve Francis, the Rockets' leader in scoring, assists, steals and rebounding. "If he feels he needs to shoot 25 times a game, we'll do that. It's in the best interests of the team, the best interests of Hakeem Olajuwon and the best interests of the fans of Houston. We don't have a guy besides him who is a bona fide presence. When he didn't play [because of his injury], we struggled defensively."
Olajuwon is expected to depart next summer as a 38-year-old free agent, and the Rockets will use his salary slot to rebuild. In the meantime, Francis has established himself as the team's leader. "I don't know if I'll ever be as much of a factor as he is," says Francis, 22. "I just hope we continue to get better, knowing this is his last season with us."
Outside the Box Score
Walker Not Sleepwalking
Celtics forward Antoine Walker, who is often thought to be too concerned with his stats, shook off his 3-for-19 shooting against the Hawks on Jan. 23 to seal a win with a game-saving floor burn. With Boston up 83-82, Walker dived headfirst and knocked the ball out of bounds from guard Jason Terry. After in-bounding with 2.1 seconds left, Atlanta couldn't get off a shot before the buzzer.
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