HOUSTON—Omer Asik greeted the familiar faces with a wide smile, but he wouldn’t bite.
When Chicago reporters joked that they could get a quote from him in what could be his last game in a Rockets uniform, he laughed, then said, “I’m not talking about that.”
Fair enough. But it’s a well-known fact that Asik, who didn’t play in the Rockets’ 109-94 win Wednesday over his former team, the Bulls, at the Toyota Center, could be traded by Thursday, the self-imposed Houston general manager Daryl Morey gave to deal the center.
Asik, who signed with the Rockets as a free agent in the summer of 2012, is reportedly unhappy at his role after the team signed free-agent center Dwight Howard this past offseason, following Asik’s breakout double-double campaign in his debut season in Houston. According to various reports, the primary suitors for Asik, who is owed $15 million next season—a major factor that the Bulls didn’t match the Rockets’ offer sheet—include Boston and Philadelphia, amongst other candidates.
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While the Bulls had their own difficulties with Asik’s current team, their thoughts were with their former teammate.
“It’s tough because he’s a good dude. He’s a great teammate. That was my roll dog in Chicago, the way our chemistry was on the basketball court. It’s just the business. I thought he played well last year. He’s an All-Star caliber center. Things just changed over the summer, when they got Dwight Howard,” explained Taj Gibson, Asik’s tag-team partner off the bench for two seasons. “I just wish things get better for him. I know they will because he’s a good player, especially because he’s a good person, on and off the court. I just hope he does well.”
Joakim Noah added about his former understudy: “I think it’s tough, man. It’s tough for Omer, so I wish him nothing but the best. That’s my boy, that’s my brother. Some of the best years I’ve had in the league was with him and good dude, man. Good dude, works his [expletive] off and I think he’s been in a tough situation, Dwight coming here, not being able to play. He’s somebody who wants to play and I respect that. He’s competitive as hell and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Carlos Boozer chimed in: “I love Omer, man. I don’t know the whole situation, obviously not being here. But ‘O’ is a great dude, great friend, phenomenal teammate for us. I just kind of wish him the best. I don’t know what direction they’re going in, keep him or move him. I don’t really have a place to talk about it, but just on a personal level for Omer, I just wish him the best. He’s a good dude.”
Luol Deng had a unique take on the situation, first joking, “Even if I was here, I’d probably give you the political answer.
“I don’t know. My whole thing is, I don’t know what’s going on, on that team. Omer is the type of player that—he’s always committed and will always play hard. I don’t know what’s going on in the locker room or why he’s unhappy. Obviously a lot of it has to do with the amount of minutes that he’s getting to play and his role, and he feels like he could be more effective,” he went on to say. “Sometimes fans could look at that in the wrong way, but then again, you could look at it as someone who wants to play and be a part of something. If he doesn’t like his role, he’s not helping the team. So knowing Omer personally, I know how unselfish he is and just wants to play, so being my guy, I’m with him 100 percent.”