According to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Bulls will officially decline to match the Houston Rockets' offer sheet to Omer Asik on Tuesday, allowing the center to bolt to Houston on a three-year, $25.1 million deal.
Update: Tuesday, July 24, 1:12 p.m. ET by Tyler Conway
Per Bulls.com writer Sam Smith:
"We have decided not to match Houston’s offer sheet for restricted free agent Omer Asik. [...] It was a difficult decision because Omer did a nice job for us. Matching the offer for Omer could have put us in a difficult position going forward in trying to acquire high level talent. We wish Omer good luck and continued success."
At the very least, Asik and Forman's split sounds far more amicable than the "betrayal" (per the New York Daily News) felt by Knicks owner James Dolan.
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This move gives the Rockets the unexpected distinction of signing both "poison pill" contracts the team offered this summer after the New York Knicks declined a similar offer for Jeremy Lin on July 18.
If you're counting at home, Asik's arrival means Rockets general manager Daryl Morey invested $50.2 million over the next three seasons for two players with 27 NBA starts combined. I'll do the math; that's $1.86 million per career start.
On paper, Lin's offer makes sense. The Rockets had to overpay Lin for the Knicks to not match. The glimpses of brilliance and the overwhelming popularity of Linsanity makes the point guard a valuable on-court and off-court commodity. If Lin is even half of the player he was during that magical 11-game run in New York, then Houston came away with a fair-market contract.
Asik, on the other hand, makes far less sense. Ostensibly, the Turkish center will soften the blow if Houston loses out on Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum in the trade market. Asik is a young, powerful center who clogs the middle with intimidating defense and shot-blocking skills.
The only question is whether Asik can be effective in extended minutes. As a backup to Joakim Noah last season in Chicago, Asik averaged a measly 14.7 minutes a night this past season.
His 5.3 rebounds in those limited minutes project a robust 13.0 rebounds per 36 minutes, but nearly every other counting stat leaves something to be desired. His projected 7.6 points per 36 minutes place Asik among the league's worst starting offensive centers, and his 4.5 projected fouls mean that the 26-year-old may be more unnecessary risk taker than elite shot-blocker.
Another problem is that Asik looks like an awful fit next to Lin. Knicks center Tyson Chandler excelled with Lin at the helm last season because of his elite rolling ability in the pick-and-roll offense. Asik has little experience running the PNR and has an awful habit of bringing the ball below his waist in the paint.
All of this makes Asik one of the summer's riskiest free-agent signings.
Regardless, the Rockets' questionable acquisition leaves a massive hole in Chicago's second unit. Giving $25.1 million to Asik was a gross overpayment, but he still served as one of the NBA's best backup big men for each of the past two seasons.
In an offseason where seemingly every Bulls bench player bolted for greener pastures, one has to wonder whether Chicago management is already folding its 2012-13 season.
Star point guard Derrick Rose is out until at least March (per the Chicago Tribune) and won't be at 100 percent next season even if he does return. The team even reportedly put out trade feelers for forward Luol Deng and center Joakim Noah during the draft process, hoping to grab a lottery pick.
Most of all, every "replacement" bench signee screams stopgap.
The longest contract the Bulls signed this offseason was a two-year, $8 million deal with Kirk Hinrich, who will serve as Rose's replacement. Bench additions Nazr Mohammad, Marco Belinelli and Vladimir Radmanovic all signed one-year deals at minimal salaries.
Keeping flexibility likely means that the days of Chicago running with two elite units is over. If the season goes as planned, the Bulls will almost assuredly amnesty forward Carlos Boozer next offseason and make a run at a second star to put alongside Rose.
Whether that strategy works long-term remains to be seen. But with Howard and Bynum looming as possible targets in the summer of 2013, losing Asik was a necessary evil for the team's future.
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