The frenzy of Black Friday has already faded into memory at your local mall, but the shopping days for Omer Asik are likely about to come to a full boil.
Just don’t expect the Rockets to be offering one of those “door-buster” specials for the 7-footer center. Houston is still hoping to land a pair of first-round draft picks or a rising young talent at power forward and a pick.
It’s been the league’s worst-kept secret that the Turkish big man would be moved ever since Asik told coach Kevin McHale he was not up to playing on Nov. 14 in New York the night after he got just four minutes of playing time at Philadelphia.
According to ESPN’s Mark Stein, the Rockets have spread the word that they intend to make a deal in the period between Dec. 15-19.
The significance of such a specific window is two-fold. Dec. 15 is the first day players who signed new contracts in the offseason can be plugged into trades, and Dec. 19 is the last day any player acquired by Houston in an Asik deal can be repackaged with other players before the league’s Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The calls made by the Rockets on Friday are reminiscent of their approach with Thomas Robinson during the draft in June.
It was an open secret that the Rockets would trade Robinson to help clear salary-cap space for their pursuit of Dwight Howard. Taking this step with Asik is in essence an attempt to persuade potential suitors to put their best offer on the table quickly now that the Rockets have established such an exact time frame for trying to complete a trade.
The Rockets signed Asik away from the Bulls as a free agent in the summer of 2012 to a three-year, $25 million deal and he started all 82 games last season in Houston, averaging a double-double of 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
While his offensive range is quite limited, Asik is a solid low post defender, protects the basket well and can gobble up his share of rebounds. He is the kind of big man that could shore up the middle on any number of would-be playoff teams and contenders.
Because of those abilities, the Rockets have insisted all along that they get top level compensation in any deal, but the fact that he wants out of Houston has reduced their leveage.
Asik’s discontent began on the same day the jubilant Rockets announced they had won the Howard derby last summer. With the arrival of the All-Star center in Houston, the 27-year-old Asik knew that his days as the anchor in the middle of the lineup were over. It was reported that Asik immediately asked to be traded.
McHale insisted that there was a way for the two big men to play side-by-side and the Rockets opened the season with Asik at center and Howard at power forward for the first eight games. The combination struggled to generate consistent offense and was not nearly as effective on defense as was expected.
Though he has not commented publicly for fear of being fined by the NBA, Asik and his agent Andy Miller have repeated their request for the Rockets to trade the big man.
So the countdown to the Asik shopping days begins.