When Dwight Howard announced his decision to join the Rockets on Friday evening, there were murmurs that Asik was not happy with the move and wanted to be traded. Now, reports indicate that Asik has reached out to the Rockets, formally requesting a trade.
However, as of now, Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Rockets have no plans to honor that request and plan on keeping Asik to backup and play alongside Dwight Howard. Kevin McHale spoke about Asik in the past few days and essentially confirmed those reports:
With Omer, he had a great year for us last year and really became one of the top centers in the league. It's just when you have an opportunity to get Dwight, it's hard not to. I'm sure Omer right now is a little down in the dumps, but we'll pick him up.
He also discussed playing the duo together in spurts. This, from ESPN.com:
McHale said he can see lineups when Asik and Howard would play together in addition to Asik, who along with Howard would create perhaps the best defensive and rebounding rotation in the league, backing Howard up. McHale called to mind the 1980s when the Rockets used lineups with Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson.
"You do play two bigs," McHale said. "You have to get spacing and you have to make sure your small guys have got to make sure they keep the court spaced."
This, to me, seems a bit more like posturing than anything. The Rockets have already begun vetting other backup center options, and the fit with Howard and Asik seems suspicious. With Howard in the middle, maintaining spacing on the perimeter is absolutely crucial. If Asik is also clogging the lane, James Harden and Jeremy Lin are going to be running into two big men waiting for them at the basket every time they drive the paint.
Yes, Asik and Howard would be absolutely dominant down low, but both struggle immensely outside the paint on both defense and offense. Neither is going to step out and hit a jump shot, and defensively the duo would be extremely problematic as well. Asik and Howard both struggle when opposing players take them out to the perimeter, and with the advent of the stretch four, it's going to be nearly impossible to find a time when it would be feasible to play them together.
In essence, Asik is a tremendous luxury to have. With Howard coming off an injury-riddled campaign last year, having an experienced center waiting on the bench in case of injury is a great asset. But compared to the gaping hole the Rockets have at power forward, I think that Asik is an unnecessary luxury the Rockets can't afford to have.
Both Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones showed flashes of becoming competent power forwards last season, but neither was able to put together enough consistent stretches to earn a spot in the playoff rotation. Now, the Rockets expect one of them to step up as a starter after just one offseason to improve? That seems like a leap of faith the Rockets wouldn't want to take.
On the other hand, with months to go in the offseason, there is no reason for the Rockets to tip their hand so early. Keeping up the appearance that they will keep Asik maintains leverage in trade talks and gives them added time to evaluate their roster in full as the season approaches.