Rockets' Asik demands trade; return to Bulls seems unlikely

Rockets' Asik demands trade; return to Bulls seems unlikely
November 18, 2013, 2:45 pm
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Mark Strotman

The Bulls made both a financial and basketball decision last year not to bring back Omer Asik after the Houston Rockets placed a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet on the 7-foot center. A year and a half later, Asik is asking out of Houston and looking for a third team in as many seasons.

When the Rockets brought Asik in last July, they had a real need at center. A combination of the oft-injured Sam Dalembert and Marcus Camby had not gotten the job done, and there was little else on the bench to suggest that the center of the future was there.

So the Rockets gave Asik, the 25-year-old reserve, a giant offer that the Bulls, not wanting to deal with more luxury-tax implications, would not match. Asik averaged a double-double in his first year in Houston (10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds), appearing in all 82 games and helping the Rockets to a 45-win season.

Then Dwight Howard entered the picture. General manager Daryl Morey and the Rockets made a real push this past offseason to acquire the All-NBA center, who had played one tumultuous, up-and-down season in Los Angeles after demanding a trade from the Magic, the team that drafted him in 2004.

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Howard chose the Rockets over the Lakers and Warriors, and temporarily it appeared that Howard and Asik could work together in the same frontcourt -- though there were rumblings he might be looking for a way out even before the season began. It didn't. And last week the Rockets took Asik out of the starting lineup in favor of power forward Terrence Jones -- moving Howard back to center. Asik's agent came out and formally demanded a trade from Houston, saying his client was capable of a starting job and wouldn't find it in Houston.

There's no denying Asik's talent, and though he's in his fourth season he's 27 years old and has proven he's capable of logging veteran's minutes. There's a spot in a starting lineup for Asik, who may not see a trade come to fruition until around Dec. 15, when players who signed contracts this past offseason become eligible to be moved.

And a trade to the Bulls seems unlikely. Though the Bulls did enjoy what Asik brought to the table and could theoretically upgrade over Nazr Mohammed -- the Bulls singed Mohammed to a one-year deal after Asik left, and then re-signed him again this past offseason -- the Bulls don't have much flexibility to take on Asik's contract. Taj Gibson's salary would match up with Asik, but Gibson is putting up impressive numbers in the early season and has doubled, at times, as the back-up center, playing alongside Carlos Boozer.

Luol Deng doesn't make sense on the Rockets' end -- they've got Chandler Parsons and, in smaller lineups, James Harden at small forward -- and there has been no indication that the Bulls have plans to trade the South Sudan native, even with his impending free agency on the horizon after this season. Plus, the Bulls opted not to match Houston's offer sheet two offseasons ago; it'd be tough to see a scenario where they brought him back at Asik's current contract.

Bulls or not, Asik will be traded. There's no room for him in Houston with Howard manning the middle, and the Rockets wouldn't mind shedding his salary while upgrading at power forward in the process. He's proven his worth as a starter and still has upside as a "young" 27-year-old, in terms of NBA experience.