4 Toronto Raptors Surrounded by a young and deep supporting cast, Hakeem can dream about another shot at a championship

October 29, 2001

Seated in a folding chair a half hour after his fifth practice
as a Raptor, center Hakeem Olajuwon spied a trainer walking by
with bags of ice. After flagging him down as eagerly as a
five-year-old would the Good Humor Man, Olajuwon applied the
frozen booty to his aching 38-year-old knees. "My first few
years in the league I'd see guys using ice and think, Wow, that
guy is finished," he says. "Or if I saw a guy going to the
trainer's room, I'd think, What's this? Now I've learned these
treatments make it easier for you to perform."

Another explanation for Olajuwon's new fondness for ice, of
course, is that older men feel sore more than younger men. If
the Raptors were counting on Olajuwon to carry them to a title,
as he did the Rockets in 1994 and '95, his age would be a major
concern. But they're not, and on this deep team that boasts a
superstar (Vince Carter) and an All-Star at center (Antonio
Davis), his age is not an issue. General manager Glen Grunwald
surprised the league by re-signing free agent Davis, as well as
rapidly blossoming guard Alvin Williams and forward Jerome
Williams, then agreeing with Carter on a six-year contract
extension worth as much as $94 million.

That means Lenny Wilkens, the NBA's winningest coach, welcomes
back almost intact the team that lost to the 76ers in seven games
in the conference semifinals. To it he adds a rejuvenated
Olajuwon, the only player in the top 10 alltime in points,
rebounds, blocks and steals; though he battled a cyst in his
right knee and later a blood condition, he averaged 16.0 points
and 10.6 rebounds during his healthiest stretch last season, a
13-game span in February and March. "I was always curious about
playing somewhere else at the end of my career, but I thought it
would be Vancouver," the Dream says. "I've spent a few summers
there, and it's beautiful. At least this is still Canada."

With Olajuwon's arrival Davis will move to his natural position
at power forward, while the feisty Jerome Williams, shot-blocker
Keon Clark and Brian Skinner (acquired in the deal that sent
Charles Oakley to the Bulls) give Wilkens a wealth of options in
the paint. All that help has Olajuwon believing that his new team
can live up to his name, which translates from a Nigerian dialect
as "always being on top." "Coming here gives him new life," says
Carter. "We get a chance to utilize his talent, and we give him a
chance to win another championship."

Carter's evolution from a high-flying dunker into a complete
offensive player is the biggest reason for that optimism. Even
against the new zone defenses his explosiveness will allow him to
get to the basket, and his sharpened shooting from beyond the arc
(40.8% last season) should prove more important this year. He
might have helped the Raptors even more as a recruiter this
off-season, phoning the team's three free agents as well as
Olajuwon before signing on himself. "If I'm going to cast my lot
with the Raptors," says the 24-year-old Carter, "I'm going to try
to make them as good as possible any way I can."

How good that will be depends on the continued development of Mo
Peterson and Alvin Williams. Peterson had an up-and-down rookie
campaign at small forward, but the former Michigan State star
appeared to find his way near the end. Now in his fifth season,
the 27-year-old Williams ranked second in the league to the
Clippers' Jeff McInnis in assists-to-turnovers ratio (3.95) and
increased his regular-season scoring average by 4.0 points in the
playoffs, to 13.8. "Alvin knows now he can compete with any guard
in this league," Wilkens says, "and he's come back more
confident."

"This team is definitely going somewhere good," says Olajuwon.
"Everybody can hold his own." Which means that Olajuwon can
reasonably dream about ice of another type: the kind that
sparkles in a championship ring.

--Pete McEntegart

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN MAIN ATTRACTION Wherever Carter goes, defenders are sure to follow, especially since he's added a lethal jumper to his act.

enemy lines
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Raptors

"A lot of people think the Raptors will make the Finals, but I
think they took a step back.... They're going to miss Charles
Oakley. He was probably the best help defender in the league, he
rebounded, he'd set a screen, dive on the floor, take a charge,
and in the locker room he motivated the players and inspired a
little fear. As laid-back as Lenny Wilkens is, he needs that
kind of leadership.... Even without Oakley, though, opposing
teams are still going to have to work hard to keep the Raptors
from getting second shots. Because defenses have got to help on
Carter so much, his teammates have freedom to hit the offensive
boards.... Antonio Davis is as good as any power forward in the
East, and Alvin Williams is a great point guard. He scored close
to 40% of his points in the fourth quarter, so you can really
rely on him down the stretch.... After the instability they went
through with Butch Carter two years ago, Wilkens has proved to
be a perfect match for that team. He gave them stability,
credibility, and the players obviously respect him. I give
Wilkens a lot of credit for establishing Williams as a future
star.... Hakeem Olajuwon is used to being the focus of the
offense, and I don't know how they're going to incorporate
him.... My problem with this team is that they play too loose,
and I put a lot of that on Vince Carter's leadership. Carter is
a poor defender. You try to screen Carter because he doesn't
stay in plays, he dives on picks and he seldom helps. You
wouldn't say that about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Tracy
McGrady. You can't be one-dimensional and lead your team to the
Finals.... If they had held on to McGrady and let Carter go,
they would have had the kind of leader who ties up the loose
ends, worries about defense and has them focused on winning a
championship."

projected lineup
2000-01 record: 47-35 (second in Central)
Coach: Lenny Wilkens (second season with Raptors)

STARTERS
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

SF Mo Peterson 9.3 ppg 3.2 rpg 1.3 apg 0.79 spg 43.1 FG%
153
PF Antonio Davis 13.7 ppg 10.1 rpg 1.4 apg 1.94 bpg 43.3 FG%
36
C Hakeem Olajuwon 11.9 ppg 7.4 rpg 1.52 bpg 1.21 spg 49.8 FG%
73[1]
SG Vince Carter 27.6 ppg 3.9 apg 5.5 rpg 1.52 spg 1.09 bpg
3
PG Alvin Williams 9.8 ppg 5.0 apg 2.6 rpg 1.50 spg 43.0 FG%
105

BENCH
PVR* 2000-01 KEY STATS

C-F Keon Clark 7.9 ppg 5.4 rpg 1.90 bpg 48.0 FG% 59.2 FT%
179
F Jerome Williams 6.3 ppg 6.5 rpg 0.34 bpg 0.97 spg 46.3 FG%
199
G Chris Childs 4.7 ppg 4.6 apg 2.6 rpg 0.77 spg 40.3 FG%
224
G-F Dell Curry 6.0 ppg 1.2 rpg 1.1 apg 42.4 FG% 42.8 3FG%
227
C-F Brian Skinner[1]4.1 ppg 4.3 rpg 0.28 bpg 39.8 FG% 54.2 FT%
298

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

"Williams is a great point guard. You can really rely on him
down the stretch."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)