ORLANDO, Fla. — In space of a week Omer Asik has gone from being out the door as one step in the plan to land Dwight Howard to a key part of the rotation as the Rockets go from summer fantasy to real contenders in the Western Conference.
In a land where everybody is always happy, the 7-foot center would be packed up and shipped out by general manager Daryl Morey in order to land the third league in a Big Three setup in Houston while letting Asik continue to blossom on another contender.
Of course, everybody isn’t always walking around whistling in a state of bliss, which is why Asik is probably going to have to suck it up, at least for a while.
For one thing, Rockets coach Kevin McHale is more than a bit tired of coaching Munchkins the past two seasons in Houston and wants all the size that he can get along with Howard on the front line.
“You can play two bigs,” McHale said. “You have to get spacing, and your small guys have to make sure that your small guys follow that. Omer had a great year for us. He became one of the top centers in the league.”
That is the big part of the problem. After averaging 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds, Asik is arguably one of the top five centers in the NBA and doesn’t want to spend next season as a 15-minute-a-game backup. Yet the history of the game when it comes to contenders shows that 15-minute-a-game backups can be simply invaluable, especially when they’re playing behind a guy with chronic back problems. Playing Howard and Asik together for anything except short-term defensive situations doesn’t seem practical or doable, despite McHale’s hopes.
While the trade-happy Morey might have been inclined to swap out his backup center if he was going to get the anything like Josh Smith in return, he’s not going to make a deal just to appease Asik. The other complication is that Morey would have to find a deal where salaries match up and also on a contender, which is where Asik wants to go. Then he’s got to get back a player who will have as positive influence on the Rockets as Asik in his 15 minutes per game. That’s a pretty exacting task.
Asik is either angry, disappointed, frustrated or some other adjective to have finally have gotten his chance to play significant minutes in Houston last season, only now to find himself pigeonholed again as a reserve behind not just an All-Star, but the main star up on the marquee.
Yet there is no reason for Morey to trade Asik now for anything less than a premium return. That premium is not likely to come any time over the summer. If there is a team that feels a need to make a significant move and pay a significant price, that won’t happen until just before the start of the season in October. Or more likely in February at the trade deadline. That’s when Morey will get presented with his best options to further improve the Rockets. Odds are that’s when Asik moves.
Barring an injury to Howard that puts him back onto the court full time, there’s no reason to think the stifled young big man will get any less disappointed or frustrated with the situation by the season opener. But as far as happiness, the truth is Asik will have to wait.