FOR THE BETTER: Center Akeem Olajuwon says something positive may have come out of his eye injury -- an improvement in the Houston Rockets.

"If it took a blowout fracture to bring out the best in the players and the team, then it's worth it to me," hesaid. "This is what I've wanted all along. Team basketball. Everybody's playing hard and playing to win."

Olajuwon, who fractured the bones around his eyes in a collision with the Chicago Bulls' Bill Cartwright, is expected to rejoin the Rockets in early March.

The Rockets, 10-9 without Olajuwon, have won seven of their last eight games, shedding their image as a one-man team.

The media "said the team is standing around watching Akeem, right?" he said. "Well, I have no control over that. I'm just out there playing my game. I've never stopped a teammate. If one of my teammates can beat his man one-on-one, I've always wanted him to do it. He doesn't need approval from me."

LONG SIGNS: The Pistons signed veteran G John Long for the rest of the season after his two 10-day contracts expired.

MOVES: The Heat placed G Jon Sundvold on the injured list and activated F Terry Davis. . . . The Spurs signed G Clifford Lett to a 10-day contract.