After missing two games for Houston with an unspecified (and all too convenient) "illness," Omer Asik is set to make his return for the Rockets. Asik participated in practice on Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle, and is set to be active and in uniform for Tuesday night's game against the Celtics, likely marking his return to the rotation since reiterating his request for a trade to the Rockets' brass last week.
Thus ends the week-long stretch of irrelevance for Asik, who logged a mere four minutes of action in Houston's overtime loss to Philadelphia last week before sitting out the wins over the Knicks and Nuggets entirely. For the latter game, Asik wasn't even on the Rockets' bench. He hadn't attended shootaround that day, and was not made available to the media. When asked about the big man's absence, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale responded that Asik was "under the weather."
The reason for Asik's displeasure with his current situation is obvious, as he's seen his minutes and value decline since the arrival of Dwight Howard. The request for a trade is thus merely a request for normalcy, in a sense, as Asik is interested and pursuing the kinds of playing time and opportunity he had in Houston a season ago. Asik has taken his frustrations a step further, though, apparently expressing to McHale and the Rockets that he was not prepared to play in the game against the Knicks. Again, from Feigen and the Chronicle:
In the team’s daily meeting Thursday in New York, coach Kevin McHale spoke about players stepping up to contribute in any way possible after a tough overtime loss in Philadelphia in which Asik played just four minutes, according to an individual with knowledge of the meeting. Several players, particularly Pat Beverley and Chandler Parsons, spoke. At one point, McHale asked center Greg Smith if he was ready. Smith said he was, and McHale then asked Asik if he was ready to play that night.
According to the person familiar with the conversation, Asik said he would not be ready to play that night and soon met with his agent.
Asik is hardly alone is his displeasure with his current role, but it's another matter entirely to balk on an opportunity to contribute to the team in a limited capacity. It would seem that he must have come to terms with his situation in some fashion if he's returning to the court for the Rockets, perhaps in part due to the fact that sitting out games will do little good for his trade value. Chandler Parsons reflected on Asik's frustrations and absence at Rockets practice on Monday (via Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle):
Over the weekend, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported
that an Asik trade was an inevitability, with the only questions involving the timing of the potential deal and the possible trade partners involved. The logic there makes sense; the pairing of Asik and Dwight Howard has been a disaster for Houston this season, both allowing more points and scoring significantly fewer than the Rockets' defensive and offensive averages, per NBA.com. Scoring, in particular, had been a remarkable struggle. Yet with Asik's value as a potential defensive anchor still high, the Rockets should have little trouble finding interested trade partners. All that's left to decide is what kind of deal Houston could work out and consent to, given the complications involved with Asik's departure being so apparent.