The Celtics have reportedly emerged as the front runner to land Rockets center Omer Asik. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The Houston Rockets will reportedly trade 7-foot center Omer Asik in the next 24 hours, according to Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.
The team's self-imposed deadline of Dec. 19 comes just as the Celtics have emerged with reports of Boston's front office becoming increasingly interested in the Turkish big man's services. Earlier this week, it was reported that the Celtics were talking with the Kings on a deal that would send four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, who is due $25 million over the next two seasons, to Sacramento. The Philadelphia 76ers are also reportedly in the mix to land Asik, and some NBA executives believe a three-team deal could be in play.
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One possible trade mentioned by Stein and Windhorst is a deal that would send Asik to the Atlanta Hawks, a preferred destination from Houston's perspective. It's unclear, however, whether former Utah Jazz forward Paul Milsap, who signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Hawks this offseason, would be a piece that Atlanta would be willing to part with in order to land Asik.
The Hawks reportedly remain "lukewarm" on the 27-year-old Asik, and Boston and Philadelphia are more comfortable with paying the $15 million owed to him next season, a "balloon payment" inserted into the contract he signed with the Rockets that allowed General Manager Daryl Morey to dissuade the Bulls from matching the Rockets when Asik was a free agent two summers ago.
Another possible trade scenario is a three-way trade that would send Asik to Boston, Jeff Green, who is owed nearly $18 million over the next two seasons, to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Rockets would take back at least one future first-round pick.
News of Asik's likely departure should come as no surprise. During the offseason, Asik reportedly asked the team to trade him in part because he didn't want to have his minutes cut after Houston signed Dwight Howard.
Dec. 15 was the first day most players who signed new contracts this past offseason could be used in trades, and Dec. 19 is the final day a player involved in a trade can be used again in a subsequent deal before the league's Feb. 20 trade deadline.
On the season, Asik is averaging 4.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 18 minutes per game in 17 appearances with the Rockets.
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