Timelines in sports are a strange thing. While fans think of trade deadlines as ways to get excited about rumored swaps that include their favorite teams, mostly they are set by leagues based on paychecks and other mundane concepts. In the NBA, that includes all sorts of weird dates that are based on the current collective bargaining agreement.
With the Rockets clearly wanting to deal center Omer Asik, their plans have been forced into a small window set by the league, making the pace faster and the chance for a screw-up bigger. The hard trade deadline isn't actually until February as it is in most years, but the time between December 15 and December 19 -- i.e., NOW! -- is important.
December 15 is the first day players who were signed before the season are allowed to be traded. This, most assuredly, is a mechanism to protect players from being bounced all over the league multiple times by trade-happy execs. But the 19th is a more interesting deadline. If a player is dealt before December 19, he is eligible to be traded again before the final deadline in February. If a player is on a roster after December 19, he must remain on that roster (unless cut) through the end of the year.
For the Rockets, who are hell-bent on sending Asik packing now that they have Dwight Howard, that creates a hectic week wherein they have to find a willing trade partner (or partners) and get everything done quickly.
As a result, rumors are flying, including one that came out earlier today involving both Asik and Jeremy Lin in a deal that would net the Rockets a draft pick and the Bulls' Luol Deng, exactly the kind of wing scorer-defender the Rockets could use. Of course, there are a million other scenarios that exist as well, mostly with teams in the Eastern Conference both because they are terrible and more willing to make moves and because it keeps Asik, a very good post defender, out of the West.
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With all signs pointing to a deal getting done before Thursday, Rockets GM Daryl Morey is likely burning up his cell phone. Whatever move they make, they better do it soon. With the Rockets dropping players like flies with injuries and illness, they might not have a guy who can pass a physical available for trade before the end of the week.