Asik submitted a formal trade request, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle on Thursday. While that may create a source of tension and unease in the short term, it was a necessary, bold tactic for Asik to deploy, and it was for the benefit of his NBA career.
Second-year Kentucky product Terrence Jones has supplanted Asik for a spot in the starting five, which is part of what drove the trade request.
Feigen also documented comments made by Asik's agent, Andy Miller:
I would say the situation is very frustrating right now, and we’re trying to work through it...For Omer, the objective has always been to continue to develop and grow as a player. That’s why we came to Houston in the first place. If that objective can’t be met, if we can’t get the right platform to grow and contribute as a player, it’s certainly frustrating.
In that context, there is no reason for Asik to stick around longer than he needs to in light of that relegation.
Unfortunately, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com reports that the Rockets are unwilling to trade Asik because of his defensive and rebounding abilities, as well as concerns about the team's depth.
The 27-year-old big man was a key contributor to last year's Houston squad that pushed the Oklahoma City Thunder to six games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. During the regular season, Asik averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds as the only true paint presence the Rockets had.
Plans were in place to start both Asik and Howard, but head coach Kevin McHale's preference for an uptempo style of offense is more suited to smaller lineups.
The uneven early results of Asik and Howard on the floor together left Asik as the odd man out.
He's seen his minutes diminish over the past three games, culminating in no action at all in Thursday's 109-106 win over the New York Knicks. Asik played only four minutes in the previous game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
According to Windhorst, McHale implied that Asik wasn't feeling well, which was why he didn't play at all in the Knicks game. That doesn't explain his four minutes in the prior contest, though.
Submitting a trade request won't do Asik any favors in terms of earning playing time moving forward, but it should at least expedite the process for a fresh start elsewhere.
When the Rockets initially acquired Howard this offseason in free agency, just about anyone who had a stake in the organization was ecstatic—apart from Asik.
As Windhorst reported in July, Asik asked for a trade, but Houston did not grant his wish then.
Asik's growth as a player is being stunted with the Rockets. Considering how well he played as a starter in all 82 games a season ago, Houston general manager Daryl Morey should be able to get stellar value for him in a prospective trade.
For the sake of alleviating any tension in the locker room and allowing a fledgling player to thrive, Houston should pull the trigger on a trade sooner rather than later. After denying Asik before, it only seems right—especially now that it appears evident he won't be a key cog in the Rockets push for a championship.