Olajuwon sidelined for three weeks

Doctors told National Basketball Association star Hakeem Olajuwon to stop playing for up to three weeks because of on-going breathing problems.

"He is still having problems so we asked him to take some time off," Dr. James Muntz said Wednesday after examining the Nigerian-born center of the Houston Rockets. "We told him he would probably be out two to three weeks and that's getting toward the end of the season."

The NBA regular season ends April 19.

Olajuwon, 37, was diagnosed March 1 with a disease that restricts the flow of air through his bronchial passages during heavy exercise, causing spasms in his lungs. He has been taking medicine for the condition.

The breathing problem has limited Olajuwon's playing time - he has played as much as half a game only once since the diagnosis. He is averaging 24 minutes a game for the season, 13.4 below his career average.

"If he was not playing basketball, he would not even know he has this condition," Muntz, Houston's team doctor, said. "If he were working at the bank or the news station, he would never know it. If he were jogging with me, he would never know it."

Olajuwon missed seven weeks earlier in the season to recover from hernia surgery.

Olajuwon, the NBA's all-time leader in blocked shots and the Rockets' leader in virtually every offensive category, has said next season would be the last of his career. It also is the last of his contract, which is due to pay him dlrs 16.5 million for 2000-01.

The Rockets are mired in an eight-game losing streak and is guaranteed to finish with a losing record for the first time since a 29-53 mark in 1983-84. Olajuwon joined the team the next season as the league's No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Houston.

Houston, which Olajuwon led to NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Olajuwon's career averages were 23.6 points and 11.8 rebounds heading into the current campaign.

His numbers this season are 10 points and six rebounds.

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