Though Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik's departures from the Houston Rockets once seemed all but certain, it now appears the team's biggest stars—Dwight Howard and James Harden—will have a hand in keeping them around.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey got some critical input from Harden and Howard, and it looks like there won't be any major personnel changes after all:
“The reality is James (Harden) and Dwight (Howard) want to play with Jeremy and Omer. I’ve been kicked down to assistant GM. They’re going to be here.”
Morey never explicitly said he was shopping Lin or Asik, but in the aftermath of the Howard signing, it didn't look like he was going to have much choice—particularly with respect to Asik. The Turkish big man made a formal trade demand immediately after Howard and the Rockets agreed to terms on July 5, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
And trade rumors have been swirling around Lin for weeks.
The emergence of Patrick Beverley in last season's playoffs certainly made it difficult to justify Lin's starting role and significant salary.
Asik may not be happy about returning to the bench after an extremely productive season in the starting lineup, but the Rockets appear willing to deal with a little discontent if it means retaining one of their most valuable players.
Morey alluded to the fact that Houston was an excellent defensive team when Asik was on the floor last season and a pretty darn awful one when he rode the bench. This shouldn't be surprising, but the numbers absolutely confirm Morey's opinion.
With Asik on the court last season, Houston posted a defensive rating of 101.3, which would have been good enough to rank in the top 10 in the NBA. When he was on the bench, though, the Rockets' defensive efficiency jumped all the way up to 107, which would have ranked 27th in the league last year, per NBA.com.
Howard may not be dialed in to the numbers that show Asik's value, but he's wise to want a capable backup.
Harden's time in Houston last year makes it easy to understand why he'd want Asik and Lin to return. The big man played terrific defense and did some stellar work on the boards, two things that made Harden's job much easier. Lin, who didn't have a particularly strong statistical season, still played extremely hard and displayed the kind of unselfishness that big-time scorers like Harden always appreciate.
The Rockets have shown over the past few years that they're willing to trade just about anybody, so don't be surprised if the team's stance on Lin and Asik changes abruptly. For now, though, the stars have spoken.
Lin and Asik won't be going anywhere for the time being.