After suggesting they’d need to make a deal including the defensive stalwart from Turkey between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19, Rockets GM Daryl Morey balked. The teams closest to reaching an agreement on a move for Asik were believed to be the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics. Morey seemed against dealing him to any Western Conference competitors, many of whom covet his particular skill set.
Whether the proposed four-day window in which to make a deal was legitimate is for those behind the curtains to know. But it’s easy to perceive the move as a somewhat arbitrary claim—a ruse floated forth to potentially put pressure on other teams ga-ga for Asik and create leverage against them.
If that is indeed the case, then Morey lost on his latest bluff. Both Boston GM Danny Ainge and Philly GM Sam Hinkie (formerly the Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for Houston) did not succumb to this round of chicken.
This leaves an unfortunate circumstance for the Rockets, who are trying to win now and need the distraction of trade talks gone to have their locker room solidified. Asik staying put seems almost completely untenable at this point, as the momentum toward his exit has been significant. He has been benched repeatedly and is more recently sitting out of games in a suit with a thigh injury that may or may not exist.
While it’s admirable and wise to make only the best trade for his team, one has to wonder: at what point does Morey’s predilection for the perfect move begin to hurt his squad? After completing a trade for James Harden with the Oklahoma City Thunder that shocked many around the league—and that was perceived by some as a tremendous blunder on the part of OKC—word has gotten out about Morey’s desire to fleece his trade partners for farm-loads of NBA assets.
The reality with Omer Asik is that he’s a top-10 defense-and-rebounding center, worthy of starting on almost any team—but the story ends there. His offensive skill set is dubious at best, and he has a ballooned 2014-15 salary (originally put in place to prevent the Chicago Bulls from matching his offer sheet, but is now backfiring) that is understandably making possible trade partners shy.
If Morey is waiting around for a better offer than Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee—the players reportedly offered by Boston—he might have to wait his team’s season away. Too much has been made of Asik as a trade-piece (this hubbub of coverage is sure to be the most attention the center ever gets at the national level) for Houston to sneak a one-sided deal past anyone. If Asik walks out that door, high draft picks aren't coming back through it, especially in the upcoming draft, one loaded with talent.
The only options for the Rockets are to settle for less than they’d dreamed of or to re-incorporate Asik back into their games. Given Asik's unhappiness that his abilities were all but outsourced by the arrival of Dwight Howard—and that any lineups with both big men have been lackluster at best—it would seem most sensible that new, more naturally fitting talent be brought in. Houston’s search for an Asik-shaped spot in the rotation has often looked like coach Kevin McHale forcing a turkey into a cake mold.
In either event, action should come soon. Nothing is more important to this team’s 2013-14 success than continuing to find their most proper form in time for the daunting Western Conference playoffs. The sooner they can figure out who’ll be there for them, the better.