HANG TIME, TEXAS — If the Rockets don’t get the players they are aggressively chasing in free agency, it seems that will at the very least make the teams they’re dealing with swallow an expensive poison pill.
The three-year, $25.1-million offer sheet they have agreed to with center Omer Asik will reportedly pay him $15 million in the final season. In that same season, the Bulls are scheduled to pay guard Derrick Rose $17.8 million and forward Carlos Boozer $16.8 million. Word is Boozer would be amnestied before that season.
The Rockets will likely take the same approach in their dealings with Hornets restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who met with general manager Daryl Morey and coach Kevin McHale on Saturday in Houston.
Even though the Hornets have repeatedly said they will match any offer for Gordon, the Rockets, who have great flexibility under the salary cap and could reduce their payroll further, will likely try to make an offer to Gordon that is similarly backloaded in an attempt to force the Hornets into a sign-and-trade deal. The Rockets are willing to deal just about anyone on their roster and just picked up three new prospects — Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones — who could be included in a package.
The Rockets have been trying to talk turkey with the Magic about Dwight Howard for months, but not had any success. They will continue to keep an iron in that fire — even without a guarantee that Howard would sign an extension beyond next season — yet had to make a move to secure another big man they have coveted.
The Bulls, who’ll have three days to match the offer sheet once it can be officially signed on July 11, have repeatedly said they would match any offer to Asik. Chicago general manager Gar Foreman has said that Asik is a priority this offseason.
However, as the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson points out, keeping Asik in the fold could prove a challenge for a Chicago team nearing the cap:
Whether a back-loaded contract that climbs to $14.1 million and possibly slightly higher in Year 3 changes that is unknown. Derrick Rose is scheduled to make $17.8 million and Carlos Boozer $16.8 million in 2014-15 when Asik’s deal jumps, although the Bulls almost certainly will use the amnesty provision on Boozer.
The Bulls also hope to extend Taj Gibson this summer or next.
The Bulls turned down the Rockets’ offer of guard Courtney Lee for Asik at the February 2011 trade deadline. Though a backup to Joakim Noah, Asik’s defense is widely valued. He averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game last season.
Two league sources said the Bulls told Kyle Korver’s agent there remain scenarios in which they can pick up Korver’s $5 million option. However, if the Bulls match on Asik, they will have $69.3 million committed to nine players. That’s only $1 million below the projected luxury-tax line with three or four players still needed to be signed.
Asik averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 14.7 minutes per game last season, but is a strong defender at the basket and the Rockets have tried often to get the Bulls interested in dealing him for nearly two years.
The Rockets had hoped to make a significant draft night deal that might have put them in a stronger position to negotiate with Orlando over Howard. But failing that, they have a bold plan to keep moving ahead that could be problematic for the teams they’re competing against. Those poison pills could be hard to swallow.