"Meeting w/Omer Asik in a few minutes -- tell him how much you want him to be in Houston! He will see your msg live - include #Asik2Houston" -- Rockets GM Daryl Morey, early Sunday morning as NBA free agency began
So much of how we process things is about expectations. Heading into this NBA offseason, Rocket fans were told by General Manager Daryl Morey that the team was as well positioned to make a deal now as they've been in any time during his tenure:
From a trade perspective, yeah, I think we've got more to work with than we've ever had to work with, and from a draft perspective as well. Now all that adds up to is not enough on the floor yet to be a playoff team, but it does give us our best hand that we've had to work with.
So it was not unreasonable for Rocket fans to expect some sort of fireworks this past Thursday night. In fact, after three straight ninth-place finishes in the Western Conference, it would be disappointing if fans didn't expect something big to happen.
What they got (for now, at least) was more of the same: more young pieces added to the mix, the tease of reportedly being tantalizingly close on a couple franchise-altering deals, and a reminder that if Houston is such a great place to live (which it is), word is trickling out awfully slowly to this generation's elite-level basketball talent.
Three new pieces were added (UConn guard Jeremy Lamb, Iowa State forward Royce White and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones), all of whom I really like. I mean, the Rockets had a good draft. Really good. I think Lamb may have the most tools offensively of any player in the draft. White is a do-it-all, cerebral player who should see time immediately. Jones was a top-five guy on many draft boards coming into the season.
It's a really good group.
But Rocket fans weren't promised more rookies. To be fair, they weren't promised anything, but at this point, even the average fan knows this team needs some star power. Quickly.
The lack of star power on this team is not for a lack of trying by management. Daryl Morey has made runs at Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and even consummated a deal for Pau Gasol in December before getting cock-blocked by commissioner David Stern. The last few years in free agency, Morey has been on the doorstep of his prime target at 12:01 a.m. the day free agency started -- Marcin Gortat back in 2009, and iPad in hand for Chris Bosh in 2010.
The Rockets have whiffed on all of those guys.
So with frustration levels firmly sitting at DEFCON 2, the last thing many Rocket fans wanted on Saturday night was a tweet from Morey asking them to tell Chicago Bulls restricted free agent center Omer Asik how much we all wanted his 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game here in Houston:
Meeting w/Omer Asik in a few minutes -- tell him how much you want him to be in Houston! He will see your msg live - include #Asik2Houston
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) July 1, 2012
Ugh. Begging for Bosh is one thing. Begging for Omer Asik is embarrassing.
You see, when you've been starving for three years, and you feel like you've earned a deep dish pizza, and have been told by your parents that they are working hard to get you a deep dish pizza, and frankly they should have gotten you deep dish pizza by now, to the point where asking your Mom, "Mom, where the FUCK IS MY DEEP DISH PIZZA!?!" is acceptable, and then they not only serve you green beans, but ask you to beg for the green beans?
Well, yeah, you'd be pissed.
Well, apparently the tweets worked. Well, the nice ones did. (I'm pretty sure my sarcastic tweet about getting Kwame Brown here didn't help.) Because Sunday night, Asik agreed to a three-year, $25.1 million deal with the Rockets. Because Asik is a restricted free agent, the Bulls will have three days to match the offer or let him go once July 11 (the date Asik can sign the deal) rolls around.
And here's the thing -- I actually like Asik. I think $8 million per year is kind of ridiculous for him (very ridiculous, actually), but I think he'd be a decent piece to add. The things he does well (rebound, block shots, defend), he does exceedingly well. (Conversely, the things he does poorly -- foul shooting, protecting the basketball, scoring -- make no mistake, he does soul-crushingly poorly.)
In fact, I even did the research to back up my Asik assessment. (NOTE: This research is further supplemented by the fact that I love to gamble on NBA regular season basketball, which immediately means I watch more non-Rocket games than maybe anyone in the city outside of the dude who has to put the scouting DVDs together for the Rockets. If Asik played 900 minutes of basketball this season, I saw probably 300 of them.)
Here is my Omer Asik recon:
1. He is in the prestigious "Field goal percentage is better than free throw percentage" club, having shot 51 percent from the field and 46 percent from the line this past season, which means having him on the floor at the end of games is not advisable. It also raises the possibility of the term Hack-a-Shaq being replaced with Hack-Asik. (If your name is used as the name after "Hack-a-", you probably suck at free throw shooting.)
2. He did have one game against Miami on April 12 where he scored no points in 23 minutes but was a +25 in the plus/minus stat (your team's point differential when you're on the floor). This is like being the bathroom attendant at the most kick-ass club party ever.
3. Asik's minutes went up in the postseason, significantly, increasing from 14.7 to 21.3 per game. Does this matter? I say yes. This is a positive for the big guy.
4. Someone took the time to make an Omer Asik highlight video, which is amazing enough. Even more incredible? It's SIX MINUTES LONG. His career is barely six minutes long:
5. He is reportedly dating Lindsay Davis, a former Miss Ohio finalist and FHM model. This is off-the-charts positive for the big guy. Dude can pull!
6. A few Twitter followers informed me that Asik's NBA 2K12 player rating is a 57, which puts him somewhere in between Serge Zwikker and a homeless man with a club foot in the minds of video game makers.
So, as you can see, I did my research on Asik. Found the good and the bad. And I've determined that for the right price, Asik could be good for the Rockets. Much like green beans are good for me. I just don't want to be told to beg for either of them.
So free agency has started and we will see if Morey can sell someone substantial on Houston actually being a vibrant, pleasant place to live. No state income tax, warm weather, lots of strip clubs -- these things have to matter to someone, right? Someone better than Omer Asik?
We hear it all the time -- Daryl Morey wins way more deals than he loses, but every deal he wins is the proverbial base hit. (Asik is a line drive base hit up the middle.) If Morey's tenure as general manager had one of those baseball-reference.com similarity scores, it'd be most similar to Tony Gwynn. The problem is that the Rockets need him to become Josh Hamilton. And fairly quickly. The natives are getting restless.
Late Sunday afternoon, Morey tweeted that New Orleans Hornets restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon was in town:
"We are excited to invite @theofficialeg10 to HTown & TC today. Send a message with #eg10houston to show him what RedNation is all about!"
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Now Gordon, him I'll tweet for. He's not a deep dish pizza, but he is pizza. He's more like a thin crust. But I'm starting to get the feeling that this offseason, thin crust may have to do.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.