HOUSTON — When former Bulls center Omer Asik signed with the Rockets two summers ago, part of the reasoning was that he’d get a chance to start, instead of toiling behind Joakim Noah, who blossomed into an All-Star last season, while his ex-understudy went on to have a career year, averaging a double-double.
So it shouldn’t have been a huge surprise when Asik’s representatives asked for a trade — first, following Houston’s acquisition of Dwight Howard and again when it became clear that pairing the two defensive-minded centers together wouldn’t work — leading to the Rockets’ self-imposed deadline of dealing him by Thursday.
Even in casual conversation, Asik’s former teammates and coaches are curious as to where he could end up, but Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau downplayed the nature of the issue when asked about the center effectively shutting things down until he’s traded.
“It’s sort of the nature of the league. He’ll be fine,” Thibodeau said as his team prepares for Wednesday's game against the Rockets. “He’s done a great job with his career. He’s a pro. I’m sure he’ll figure it out.”
According to league scuttlebutt, the leading suitors for the Turkish center could be Boston, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where former Rockets executive Sam Hinkie is now the first-year general manager of the 76ers. Houston reportedly wants back either a stretch power forward to pair with Howard or a coveted first-round pick, but a potential deterrent to any deal is the $15 million Asik is owed in the last year of his deal next season — a factor in the Bulls opting not to match the Rockets’ free-agent offer in 2012 — meaning a third team could come in as a facilitator.