Rockets Sign Omer Asik

After prying away Jeremy Lin from the New York Knicks, the Rockets have now managed to do the same with big man Omer Asik from the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls decided not to match the three-year, $25 million offer sheet given to Asik by the Rockets. The offer now popularly known as the “poison pill” contract is identical in structure to Lin’s deal. The third year will cash out $14.8 million which both the Knicks and Bulls thought was financially irresponsible. The Rockets on the other hand have cleared enough cap space to make these offers, and have found a loophole for acquiring restricted free-agents.

The Asik acquisition is a smart move for the Rockets after trading away Samuel Dalembert prior to the draft, and parting ways with Marcus Camby. The moves left the Rockets without a center, making this deal an essential one.

Asik who averaged just 3.1 points, is not known for his offense, but his defense is another story. Asik possesses above average defensive capabilities, and will help close down a paint that has been largely open for opposing guards over the years.

If the future holds a Jeremy Lin, and Jeremy Lamb backcourt, then Asik’s services in the frontcourt will be badly needed.

The Rockets have made moves but the quest for a superstar is still ongoing, meaning the Rockets are likely not done. Dwight Howard has not been moved yet, and Andrew Bynum is still on the radar. Asik certainly isn’t a player the team can build around, but fills a massive void in such a crucial position in basketball.

Since Yao Ming’s departure the Rockets have gone through multiple centers, specifically average old ones. Asik is just 26 years old standing seven feet tall, and a big body that can alter shots in the paint. Asik’s defense improved significantly under defensive guru and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rockets fans may remember “Thibs” as an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy.

While Morey hasn’t acquired a superstar yet, he has managed to sign two “RFA’s” that will likely be starting for the Rockets.

“I’m looking forward for the new opportunity in Houston,” Asik told the Chicago Tribune.

Rockets Trade Camby To Knicks

The Rockets have traded 38 year old veteran center Marcus Camby to the New York Knicks in a sign-and-trade, Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier.

The Rockets will receive guard Toney Douglas (contract paid by the Knicks), Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan, and second-round picks in 2014-15. Camby agreed to a three year $13.2 million deal via the sign-and-trade.

Though Camby is 38 years old, the Knicks have sent a clear “win now” message by acquiring the veteran big man. The Rockets on the other hand have completely transformed the roster in search for an identity that they have not had in years.

According to John Hollinger, “Rockets now have six non-guaranteed contracts and Livingston’s partial, totaling $7 mil in confederate money to use in trades.”

Obviously the Rockets have set themselves up for movement, and have not surrendered the rebuild flag yet. Douglas is a talented combo guard, but has been criticized heavily by Knicks fans for his inconsistencies. After losing Kyle Lowry, and Goran Dragic, the Rockets will gladly keep Douglas around.

Harrelson is a 6’10 275 pound big man who has shown signs of life. He certainly doesn’t solve the problem at center for the Rockets, but that’s easier said than done.

Jordan is a 7’0 big man that has yet to see any significant time in the NBA. He has been bounced around the D-League and overseas continuously. Jordan has lots of work to put in before he sees any serious time on this roster, but he could be a nice piece down the line.

Wojnarowski recently tweeted, “The Rockets refuse to give up on the Dwight Howard derby, gathering more assets to try and entice the Orlando Magic to engage in talks.”

The Rockets have been relentlessly involved in the “Dwight Derby,” and no matter how tired people are with the never ending “Dwight-mare,” the Rockets will continue to test the Magic’s patience.

Wojnarowski also excited Rockets fans when he tweeted, “Among Bynum’s short list of potential free agent landing spots in 2013, Houston is prominent with Dallas and Cleveland, sources tell Y!”

If the possibility of Dwight is slipping, then Bynum is not a bad consolation prize. Bynum is just 24 years old and would give the Rockets another big center to build around for years to come. Bynum’s knees have been an issue, but the Rockets are very familiar with taking a risk on a big man.  Bynum is an unrestricted free agent after 2013, but time will tell what the immature center will decide.

The bottom line for general manager Daryl Morey still remains finding a foundation player.

“When you’re close and have a foundational piece, you should be willing to give up picks and overpay players, whatever it takes while you have that precious foundation to get better,” Morey told the Houston Chronicle. “When you don’t have a foundational piece to build around, you should do every move in reverse, which is how does each move get us closer to getting a star, how does it get us more cap room, how does it get us more high picks and how does it get us more players with potential.”

The Rockets have acquired a plethora of players through trades that will likely be cut. Two specific contracts that involve Omer Asik, and Jeremy Lin are still on hold until the moratoriums comes to an end. That means the team will have to clear roster spots for those two guaranteed rotational players if they are eventually acquired.

The Rockets currently sit in uncertainty. With so many players lost, and so many random ones gained, the team must sift through the cluster. One thing the front office has made clear; they aren’t finished wheeling and dealing. If a superstar deal is approachable, the Rockets will be first in line.

Rockets Finally Forced To Rebuild?

What do Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, and Kyle Lowry all have in common? None of them will be wearing a Rockets jersey next season.

The Rockets have finally blown up a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three years. The team tried to trade picks and assets multiple times for a superstar prospect, and it just never panned out. Many would say it was an unrealistic way of getting better, and that’s the truth. The Rockets unlike most teams in the league, belated the inevitable in a classy manner. The team would fight hard against better teams, and would often prevail with a feel good victory.

While those teams would head into the tunnel with a bad regular season loss, they knew they would likely be in the playoffs. For the Rockets it was a proud regular season win, with a very predictable conclusion looming.

Why did the Rockets wait this long? The track record on owner Leslie Alexander does not normally involve the word “rebuild.” Alexander has always been an ambitious owner, and at times has looked stubbornly unrealistic. While general manager Daryl Morey may have advised Alexander that this process we are using is unrealistic, Alexander is the boss, and what he says goes. Three years later the Rockets find themselves as the team that can’t get anyone interested.

The next thing to question for this team is the commitment to accept rebuilding. Is the Dwight Howard chase really finished? The Rockets may have shipped out key role players in various ways, but you can never quite accept that the journey of acquisition is over for this team.

What fans need to keep in mind is the Rockets had a core roster of role players. Not one player on the roster was untouchable, and while Morey made verbal promises on bringing them back, the climate quickly changed.

Now the Rockets are stacked with young talent, but how those players translate into the NBA level is still a mystery. One thing is certain; the Rockets are still looking for a franchise player. That is the one universal goal that will not change.

A quick rundown on how each player was moved. Chase Budinger was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the No. 18 pick in the draft. The Rockets drafted Terrence Jones from Kentucky with that pick. Samuel Dalembert and the Rockets No. 14 pick was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the No. 12 pick, Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer, and Shaun Livingston. The Rockets drafted Jeremy Lamb, and many are hoping he is a star in the making. The Rockets also added versatile forward Royce White with the No. 16 pick.

After the draft frenzy wrapped up, free agency hit, and man did it hit! The Rockets once again attempted to scour the market for a superstar. They made a significant offer to big man Omer Asik, met with restricted guard Eric Gordon, and even brought back “Linsanity,” for a visit.

Jeremy Lin is still mulling his contract offer from the Rockets, but all credible sources report that the Knicks will match any deal given to Lin. It is also rumored Jason Kidd has decided on joining the Knicks. Kidd would certainly not be a long term solution for the team, but a great tutor for Lin to improve as a point guard.  So essentially the Rockets are trying, but will likely not acquire Lin but instead make the financial lives of the Knicks a pain. (That’s something I guess.)

While the hunt for a superstar continued, the Rockets backcourt took a massive hit. It was like a blob of Wite-Out spilled, and the backcourt that once consisted of Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic was gone. Dragic signed a 34 million/4 year deal with the Suns, taking his talents back to where his predecessor once played. Only difference now is, Nash is with the Lakers, and Dragic will run the show. Lowry was also traded to the Toronto Raptors for forward Gary Forbes, and a protected future first round pick. The Rockets and Raptors had been chatting about a Lowry deal for weeks, but could not swing the deal in time for the Rockets to move up in the draft, and grad the Raptors No. 8 pick. Not only have the Rockets lost Dragic and Lowry, but you can add swingman Courtney Lee into the mix. The Rockets decided to pull the qualifying offer they gave to the restricted guard, and released him to the free agency stratosphere.

Whew, did you digest all of that?

Multiple questions now loom around this franchise. Are the Rockets finally rebuilding? Will veterans Kevin Martin and Luis Scola be next on the chopping block? Who will be the starting point guard? Who will be the starting center?

It’s not the offseason we all hoped for, but it may be a large dose of reality finally sinking in. While “Red Nation” has a mini panic attack, the Rockets will likely be focusing on cultivating the youth on this roster, instead of trying to cultivate something that never really existed.