Update, 3:41 p.m. Yahoo! Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski gave us the latest update Wednesday afternoon:
The Boston Celtics are gaining traction in talks to acquire Houston center Omer Asik, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 18, 2013
Serious talks on Boston-Houston package for Asik have included Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a 1st round pick, sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 18, 2013
The Houston Rockets have given themselves a deadline of Dec. 19 to trade center Omer Asik to another team. Asik has been unhappy in Houston since Dwight Howard's arrival in July, and sources tell Grantland's Zach Lowe and others that the Rockets expect to stick to their self-imposed ultimatum to ship the big man out of town.
In the last day or two, the Celtics have been one of the teams rumored to be interested in Asik. A source told the Globe's Gary Washburn Tuesday that the Celtics were indeed interested. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Celtics are the "strongest rivals to the Philadelphia 76ers in terms of likely destinations for Asik," with any deal around the 7-foot center likely involving three teams.
More from Stein:
"One possible scenario that has emerged, sources say, is a three-way trade in which Boston lands Asik, Cleveland absorbs the contract of Celtics forward Jeff Green and Houston scores no fewer than one of the future first-round picks it covets for surrendering Asik. Other players would have to be involved in such a trade to make the salary-cap math work, but it's the sort of trade that would fall in line with Cleveland's well-known focus on upgrading its options at small forward."
ESPN reported Sunday that Brandon Bass could be involved instead of Green. Either way, it would be taking away a significant piece of Boston's current core. Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix later refuted the notion that the Celtics would be willing to part with Green:
Consistently hearing that BOS isn't all that enthralled with Asik. League source on if Jeff Green could be involved in Asik deal: "No way."— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) December 18, 2013
Houston's interest in Philadelphia as a trade partner lies with Sixers center Spencer Hawes, the report says.
You might be wondering what all the fuss is about Asik. It's a good question, one which Grantland's Lowe explains well here. I'll give you the main bullet points:
-- Asik is an advanced metrics darling, a player whose value protecting the rim far exceeds his career averages of 5.4 points and 7 rebounds. (These same high level stats would argue that Roy Hibbert is vastly underpaid, despite his large contract, because of his elite ability to keep opponents out of the paint).
-- Houston GM Daryl Morey, one of the league's biggest proponents of higher level stats, gave Asik a three-year, $25.1 million contract in 2012. That deal has a $15 million balloon payment for next season, which was originally designed to discourage the Bulls from matching that offer. The Celtics are reportedly not afraid of that payment despite being up against the salary cap.
-- Morey's demands are "delusional", according to one unnamed executive, and may include two first-round picks. The Celtics have picks, but do they want to use them for a 1 1/2 season rental like Asik?
-- Here's Lowe's kicker: "Morey is right about one thing: All the evidence suggests that any team that plays Asik for 30 minutes a game will have an elite defense over those 30 minutes, and one that protects the basket very well. The evidence also suggests such rim protection is an essential ingredient in building a championship contender."
Asik seems like a perfect piece to slide next to the offensive-minded, undersized Jared Sullinger in the Celtics' frontcourt. He's also adept at pick-and-roll offense, which would make him an interesting pairing with Rajon Rondo. And you know Brad Stevens likes defense.
For more Asik goodies, Kevin O'Connor at Celtics Blog went much more in depth than I did inside Asik's numbers.
Is Asik worth it to you? Would you give up Green or Bass or a first-round pick to get him? Vote in our survey below and leave a comment.
-- A league source also denied a rumor from Donny Marshall of all people that the Celtics and Kings were working on a blockbuster trade involving Rondo.