Houston's interest in trading reserve center Omer Asik has been the worst-kept secret in the NBA this season, but that intent seems to be quickly coming to a head. The Rockets have reportedly set an informal deadline for the deal's completion, with two relevant dates looming large in Asik-related negotiations, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com: Dec. 15 and Dec. 19.
The first is Dec. 15, the first point at which those players who signed new contracts this past offseason can be traded. That threshold opens up the potential for all manner of permutations on a potential Asik deal. Keep in mind that not only would a potential trade partner need to have the kind of assets that would interest the Rockets, but also outgoing salary that could approximate Asik's $8.4 million salary to the satisfaction of the league's trade rules. Even if the central components of an Asik deal are available for trade before Dec. 15, it's possible that the necessary filler -- the nuts and bolts of the league's trade mechanics -- might not be.
The second date is Dec. 19, the deadline by which a player must be acquired in order to be subsequently traded this season. If Houston were to waits to move Asik until after Dec. 19, the acquired players would be Rockets through the end of the season unless waived. That would slash the flexibility of a potential trade package, further impeding Houston's progress on the trade front. Things on that end are already difficult given that Asik publicly requesting a trade in mid-November. That request was reported by The Houston Chronicle:
With his starting job gone and his playing time slashed, Rockets center Omer Asik has asked to be traded, two individuals with knowledge of the request said Thursday. ... The Rockets have no trade involving Asik in the works, with one individual saying a deal is more likely in months than in days.
“I would say the situation is very frustrating right now and were trying to work through it,” [Asik's agent Andy] Miller said. “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.”
Every other team in the league understands that Houston wants to move Asik, that Asik wants out, and that a deal is only a matter of time, which makes it far more difficult to create and maintain leverage. The Rockets could eventually be forced to settle for a package of movable parts, guided by the intent to redeem their disgruntled center for flexible value while the option is still available. For the moment, though, Houston will likely continue to press for all it can in potential negotiations. Asik is one of the very best centers in the league when given a chance to fill a major role, and a high-order interior defender that could help any number of teams. Houston, since signing Dwight Howard, just doesn't have the opportunity necessary to satisfy him. Morey clearly still thinks quite highly of Asik as a player, though, to the point that a rival GM told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that the Rockets' asking price for Asik was "delusional." If a deal doesn't materialize by the targeted trade window, though, other teams might find that Houston is willing to bend a bit to keep its options open.