NBA PM: Asik Provides Insurance for Rockets

We independently review everything we recommend based on our strict editorial guidelines. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn More

Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried talks about playing at a high level, being out of trade rumors and much more in this exclusive interview with Basketball Insiders.

Asik Provides Insurance for Rockets

When the Houston Rockets signed Dwight Howard last offseason, Omer Asik’s future with the team was immediately questioned. While the Rockets initially talked about playing the two big men together, it didn’t work out, so for much of the season Asik played limited minutes and wondered if his days in Houston were numbered. At one point, Asik’s camp understandably demanded a trade from the Rockets.

Houston general manager Daryl Morey shopped Asik, even setting a self-imposed deadline to trade him by late December, but the Rockets didn’t find a deal worth pulling the trigger on. The trade deadline passed on February 20, and Asik remained in Houston.

While Asik’s future is still up in the air (he could be traded this summer or prior to next year’s deadline), he does have some short-term security and he’s doing his best to contribute for the Rockets this season.

Recently, with Howard limited due to an ankle injury, Asik’s role has increased. In Monday’s win over the Utah Jazz, Asik recorded 12 points, 11 rebounds and a block in 28 minutes. It was Asik’s first double-double of the season, after he averaged one last year (10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in 82 starts).

Asik has shown that he can be a starting-caliber center in the NBA, so his presence behind Howard provides insurance and frontcourt depth for the Rockets. That should come in handy come playoff time, when it’s never a bad thing to have multiple seven-footers capable of dominating on the defensive end to throw at other teams.

“He’s a big part of what we do,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s so good defensively, rebounds. He’s right on point with all of his calls defensively. Dwight gets a chance to rest a little bit and Omer gets a chance to play a little bit more. They’re probably both good things.”

“People are afraid to go in and challenge both of them,” Jeremy Lin said of Howard and Asik. “I don’t think anyone thinks of Omer as, ‘Oh, we’re going to go pick on Omer tonight.’ Or if they do, they’re dumb. I don’t think anybody is that dumb.”

Asik, who missed two months with thigh and knee injuries, says that his recent increase in playing time has helped him become more productive and get back into a rhythm.

“Of course, getting more minutes helped me get my confidence back and to play more confidently on the court,” Asik said. “It’s good for me to get in shape quicker. Hopefully, by the playoffs, I’ll be ready.”

Like Howard, Asik has been working with Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon after practices in an effort to expand his game. Although Asik is 27 years old, this is just his fourth season in the NBA and it’s clear he still has significant room to grow as a player. Olajuwon is trying to help Asik reach his full potential, and the pupil has enjoyed the lessons.

“He tries to help me on basic moves on the offensive end,” Asik said. “He’s helping me a lot. He’s one of the best big guys. I just try to get the most out of it and try to use it on the court.

“He is the most talented, the best fundamentally I think in NBA history. I can’t be like him, but I’m trying to learn something.”

Asik has also been working with Howard, the man who took his starting job. Howard believes that Asik can be a key contributor for Houston during the team’s playoff run, since he can make a huge impact on the defensive end and dominate the boards when he’s on the floor. There aren’t many reserve big men who can bang with Asik down low, giving the Rockets an advantage over most benches.

“I’m happy for the big guy,” Howard said of Asik. “I’m happy to see him playing. I’m happy to see him healthy. … We need him. He’s a big part of our success. He just has to understand that no matter how many minutes he plays, he’s a big part of the puzzle.

“I’m really proud of him. He’s coming on around. It took a little while. I’m still trying to get him to dance a little bit down there, but he’ll get better. I’m happy he’s more comfortable in his role.”

Things haven’t played out as Asik hoped they would when he inked his three-year contract with Houston last offseason, but he’s making the best of the situation and trying to contribute in his limited minutes. At the end of the day, he’s valuable insurance for Houston should Howard be limited due to injuries or foul trouble, and that makes him a pretty important piece for the Rockets going forward.

Jackson Believes Anthony Will Stay in New York

The big question that will dominate NBA headlines this summer: Will Carmelo Anthony re-sign with the New York Knicks?

Phil Jackson, who was officially introduced as the team’s president on Tuesday, believes that the Knicks have a great shot at keeping the superstar.

“I think the best opportunity is to stay,’’ Jackson said in an interview with ESPN Radio. “There hasn’t been many players who really have wanted to leave. Financially, it’s a better opportunity. I also think the ability to win in New York is such a lure and magnet for players to be in a place where the game matters, the fans matter, they care about the game. All those things make New York a great place for Carmelo to stay. He’s grown accustomed to living here. He’s gotten into that beat. I think he realizes that. There’s strong hope and strong belief for him to stay.’’

Anthony, for his part, has said all of the right things about Jackson’s arrival in New York.

“It’s good to hear that,’’ Anthony said, according to the New York Post. “It’s a blessing and honor to hear that. I was hoping I would be part of the future plans. I never once said I wanted to leave. The only thing I said was I wanted to dabble and try free agency out and opt out. … I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Phil.’’

During his press conference, Jackson told reporters that Anthony “has another level to go to.’’ When asked about the comment, Anthony agreed.

“I love it,’’ Anthony said. “I don’t think it’s anything bad he said. I think I’ve gotten better as a player and for him to say that, we’re on the same page. I feel like I can take the game on a whole new level that I haven’t taken to.

“I could use him as a mentor to get to that next level. I’m not at a stage [where] I’m sold on this or that. I want to get better — with that hopefully winning a championship. I’m all about enhancing my game. If Phil can help that, I’m all about that.’’

Basketball Insiders rolled out our latest 2014 NBA Mock Draft.

Check back over the next few days for more coverage of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.