Breaking into the Western Conference's top-three conversation has done little to quell the Houston Rockets desire for change.
After failing to deal Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin earlier in the season, Yahoo! Sports' Marc J. Spears reveals the Rockets are giving it another shot, writing, "Houston would love to trade center Omer Asik, and a source said it is actively shopping Jeremy Lin as well."
Sam Amick of USA Today reports something different entirely:
Also Rockets-related: big man Omer Asik not expected to get his wish of escaping Houston, as I'm told there's nothing brewing on that front— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) February 18, 2014
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has flipped-flopped on Asik's future all season. Dwight Howard's arrival was supposed to signify the end to his tenure in Houston, but by January, CBS Sports' Ken Berger indicated Morey was resigning to keep him:
Word is the Rockets now expect to keep center Omer Asik past next month's deadline and beyond. The team ramped up efforts to create a market for Asik last month because it believed that was the most realistic window to get a deal done. Now, Houston is caught in a bit of a no-man's land.
Plus, teams with room in 2015, when Asik will be a free agent, can sign him anyway -- to a more reasonable contract. Asik's deal, which balloons to a $15 million cash payout next season, becomes more of a trade impediment the closer it gets to the deadline. A new team acquiring Asik before Dec. 15 would've owed him an average salary of $10.5 million over two years. At next month's deadline, with more of his cheaper $8.4 million salary absorbed by the Rockets, that figure would jump to about $12.5 million.
Similar obstacles exist now that the Rockets have apparently changed their mind, even though they probably never stopped shopping Asik in the first place.
Lin's situation isn't that much different, either. He will enter the final year of his poison-pill contract next year as well, making him tough to move.
Trading either player while extracting any value in return is bound to be even more difficult. Interested teams have to know the Rockets are scrambling at this point, since the rumor mill has been churning out conflicting reports regularly.
Houston's best course of action—if it's dead set on creating financial flexibility by dealing both players—is hoping that Asik, who still holds some trade value, can be used has sort of a Lin buffer. While Lin is averaging 13.3 points on 46.5 percent shooting, his contract is, again, crippling. It's very possible that Asik is the only one of the two who proves tradeable at all.
Which player are the Rockets more likely to move by trade deadline?
At the same time, Asik has appeared in just three games since Dec. 2 and hasn't cracked 30 minutes in a single contest this season, leaving him far removed from his double-double efforts of last year.
"At this point, Omer is very likely going to be here until the end of his contract at the end of next season, not this season," Morey said during a question-and-answer session with Rockets season-ticket holders in January, per Clutchfans' Ben DuBose.
If the Rockets actually wish to move him, and Lin, Morey must lower his expectations considerably, since he even admits previous Asik offers weren't up to Houston's standards.
"The window to trade him was [in December], and teams weren’t aggressive enough to get him, so we’re excited about him being a part of our future."
The Rockets would be wise to get excited about Lin too, since neither him nor Asik is likely going anywhere between now and the Feb. 20 trade deadline.