Omer Asik: The Unsightly Obstacle

Yesterday we learned that Omer Asik might be 7-10 days away from returning to practice. With the trade deadline racing up on us in just a few weeks, this news is a few things: peculiar, predictable, and, to be honest, a little insolent. Who’s disrespecting who is another story.

During a recent nationally televised broadcast on ESPN between the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets, Jeff Van Gundy went on one of his signature mini-rants about Asik’s spotty playing time:

Van Gundy: [Omer Asik] is basically holding the Houston Rockets hostage because he is not starting. I don’t care what anyone says, he’s still not unable to play and it’s wrong. So much of this game is mental. Asik was one of my favorite players because of his defense and rebounding ability, but if you’re not mentally right, you can be of no help.

Breen: And that’s a question mark with Bynum.

JVG: Exactly. Now it’s a question mark with Asik. Play for your team, play for your teammates. It’s been three months.

This was the first time I can remember hearing anyone publicly acknowledge what’s felt so obvious these past two months, but before we go there let’s break down three possible explanations for Asik’s absence.

1) He’s perfectly fine and purposefully sitting games out to force his way from Houston in one of the least professional ways possible.

2) The Rockets aren’t playing him for fear of a serious injury occurring before they can find a suitable trade offer.

3) Asik is actually hurt.

Speculating on someone else’s tolerance for pain is always dicey and rarely a good idea. But putting all his general unhappiness aside for a second, for Asik—a player who’d missed zero games heading into this season—to sit just over two months with a thigh bruise after demanding several trades is cause for inquiry at the very least.

His absence is suspicious in a way that totally makes sense, but it’s also possible he physically can’t play. I’ve never bruised my thigh and don’t know how badly it hurts. It sounds like the opposite of pleasant.

That said, the three scenarios listed above are the clearest and most probable. This is far from a witch hunt. We have context and all speculation is rational. There are few facts to support any one over the other, but none qualify as a conspiracy theory.

After an incredible breakout season that saw him grab more rebounds than anybody in the entire league last year—most of them in traffic and even more obtained well over seven feet off the ground—Asik was deflated when Dwight Howard was given a max contract to play his position on his team.

That’s understandable in your world or mine. But it’s laughable in professional sports. Asik felt disrespected by the same team that signed him to a mammoth $25 million offer sheet in June 2012. Before Howard handpicked the Rockets, the team was happily willing to fork over approximately $15 million next season ($8.3 million cap hit) for a big man who’s steadier than a dial tone, and somehow less interesting.

He’s a man of his time, truly appreciated for all the non-traditional box score goodness he brings to the table every night. All being grateful for his impact requires is research and two eye balls. But that contract was always part bargain, part albatross depending, frankly, on how often you watched Asik play.

It’s indisputable that Houston would be a better team if Asik pitched in every once in a while. But if he’s actually sitting games out as a means to hold the same team hostage that gave him a life-changing offer sheet before he proved himself capable of living up to it 30 minutes every night, then there’s something seriously wrong here.

If the case, Asik used to be one of my favorite players, too.

Michael Pina has written for Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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Total comments: 44
  • thejohnnygold says 6 months ago

    82949-Thank-You-gif-Jim-Carrey-The-M-CKN

  • Sir Thursday says 6 months ago

    Well, coachwood, that is certainly an interesting trade. I'm afraid I can't see the value in trading away half of our good team for half of their bad team. This trade hinders our cap flexibility for 2015. We would also have nobody to back up Dwight at center. All in all, I'm thinking Houston should pass on this smorgasboard trade.

    All uses of the word smorgasbord are deserved of special praise! All hail tjg, user of smorgasbord!

    *ahem*. Sorry about that.

  • Steven says 6 months ago Are the Rockets getting the 2014 Bucks pick unprotected? If so, then maybe, still leaning no thanks.
  • thejohnnygold says 6 months ago

    http://espn.go.com/n...tradeId=nm2ogab

    IMO perfect way to clear path for CP25 to get paid bet bench scoring, and get some inside oresence with erson...

    MY entire point is getting expiring conta=racts with in realistic relm and not losing quality off of our bench

    Well, coachwood, that is certainly an interesting trade. I'm afraid I can't see the value in trading away half of our good team for half of their bad team. This trade hinders our cap flexibility for 2015. We would also have nobody to back up Dwight at center. All in all, I'm thinking Houston should pass on this smorgasboard trade.

  • coachwood says 6 months ago

    typing way too fast

  • coachwood says 6 months ago

    http://espn.go.com/n...tradeId=nm2ogab

    IMO perfect way to clear path for CP25 to get paid bet bench scoring, and get some inside oresence with erson...

    MY entire point is getting expiring conta=racts with in realistic relm and not losing quality off of our bench

  • Buckko says 6 months ago

    Hey that worst team was about to take us to overtime.

  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    Asik looked a little rusty, lots of fumbles and such. But somone said the other team only scored 18 in the 11 minutes he was on. That works out to 79 points over 48 minutes. But then again we are talking about the worst team in the league here.

  • rocketrick says 6 months ago Van Gundy simply doesn't like Weaklings.......
  • SadLakerFan says 6 months ago Van Gundy doesn't actually say that Asik is faking an injury. Van Gundy just seems to think he is well enough to play, but because of the trade situation, he's not mentally there - I think he means that Asik isn't willing to play through the injury. Van Gundy tells this story about how Pat Riley came into the Heat locker room before a playoff game and saw an injured player in street clothes. Riley asked the guy "could you give me a minute, if I need you in the game" and the guy responded "yeah, I think I could go if it's just a minute.". Riley got in his face and shouted "the why the f••• aren't you dressed!"

    Van Gundy doesn't like guys who don't play hurt.
  • Buckko says 6 months ago Finally seeing asik on the court, demo's improvement and them practicing together. I imagine in wonder the countless lineups we could throw out and with just one 3&D wing, our bench horde would be complete,
  • Steven says 6 months ago Even the guys on NBATV believe the "injury" wasn't real and this is a showcase for the trade deadline.
  • Sir Thursday says 6 months ago

    Man, I was planning on going to bed tonight...but now I feel I need to stay up and watch Asik play. Decisions, decisions.

    ST

  • since86rocketsfan says 6 months ago

    The reason we are trading Asik, is Asik. As soon as we got Howard, he asked to be traded. I cannot blame him for it, but he will eventually be moved because it is no way he will resign with us, so Morey will get something. Howard is better then Asik and even though Howard does not consistently dominate he will be on the court most of the time, so backup center is not our main need.

  • Steven says 6 months ago

    We'll see. Still doesn't make since to trade a great defensive center when your greatest need is another backup C but hey your guess is as good as mine.

    Greatest need is a backup winger.
  • Buckko says 6 months ago

    We'll see. Still doesn't make since to trade a great defensive center when your greatest need is another backup C but hey your guess is as good as mine.

  • redfaithful says 6 months ago

    He's back tonight.

    Hate to be cynical, but from my seat it seems like there's a done deal, and the buyer needs to see that Asik is healthy...

  • Buckko says 6 months ago

    He's back tonight.

  • since86rocketsfan says 6 months ago

    I thought we were getting ripped off by Lin last year, with his inconsistent play. But Asik this year is far worst. Atleast Lin contributes sometimes off the bench, Asik is a total waste of money right now. If he can't play this year then get some kind of exception like with Yao, if the only thing hurt with him is his feelings, then put him on the court, show gm's he still can play and move him.

  • RudyT1995 says 6 months ago

    Same point. If Van Gundy has been reduced to passing along leaks of dubious merit from Rockets management, then that still reflects extremely poor judgment.

    The bottom line is that Van Gundy had no business making such a potentially damaging allegation against Asik without disclosing the basis of his allegation. If he couldn't disclose his basis for whatever reason, then he should have kept his mouth shut.

    That's a fair point.

  • Bigtkirk says 6 months ago

    "It's only defamation if it's not true. And what makes you think JVG breached a confidence? It could have been an intentional leak for all we know."

    Same point. If Van Gundy has been reduced to passing along leaks of dubious merit from Rockets management, then that still reflects extremely poor judgment.

    The bottom line is that Van Gundy had no business making such a potentially damaging allegation against Asik without disclosing the basis of his allegation. If he couldn't disclose his basis for whatever reason, then he should have kept his mouth shut.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 6 months ago Some people believe what they want regardless of what makes sense.
  • thenit says 6 months ago

    Well Feigen just reported that Asik knees has been drained several times and that he's been rehabing in sight. I don't think Asik has the commitment to resume a fake injury by sticking a needle into his knees to take a fluid which he also put in the night before to get the swelling up am I right? I am so sure he did that just to get off playing basketball and do all other tougher rehab work out and needle procedures

  • RudyT1995 says 6 months ago

    Giving Van Gundy's opinion credibility because of his close relationship with the Rockets is misguided.

    Van Gundy made a defamatory allegation regarding a professional athlete, which is not actionable only because Asik is a public figure. As such, Van Gundy should have disclosed the basis of his allegation. If the basis was a source with the Rockets, then Van Gundy breached a confidence because the Rockets have not made such an allegation publicly.

    Van Gundy is the one who has been irresponsible here.

    It's only defamation if it's not true. And what makes you think JVG breached a confidence? It could have been an intentional leak for all we know.

  • Steven says 6 months ago

    I don't doubt he has asked to be traded. But I do doubt the image that he was in Morey's office everyday asking about any headway. As a fan of the Rox and seeing what he did for the team last year, I don't necessarily want to crucify a guy that the team needs to get far in the playoffs. I'd much rather he play 15 min a game backing up Howard, than the alternative of DMo for those 15 mins.


    I'd rather have D-Mo playing the Asik. D-Mo's offense is better than Asik's defense. Asik's offense = D-Mo's defense.
  • thejohnnygold says 6 months ago

    I think Asik was really hurt but was sitting out until he was 100%. Most players play dinged up. I don't blame him one bit if that's the case. There's no reason to play injured. Why sacrifice your future for a franchise that doesn't want you? Of course my opinion is speculation just like everybody else's. The only person who knows the full truth is Asik.

    This is most likely the closest to the truth. I also wouldn't blame him for this given his situation.

  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    I don't doubt he has asked to be traded. But I do doubt the image that he was in Morey's office everyday asking about any headway. As a fan of the Rox and seeing what he did for the team last year, I don't necessarily want to crucify a guy that the team needs to get far in the playoffs. I'd much rather he play 15 min a game backing up Howard, than the alternative of DMo for those 15 mins.

  • Freebird says 6 months ago

    While I don't doubt that Asik was really hurt, in all honesty, I would take my time coming back, as well. Coming from Asik's point of view, once D12 walked through that door, he (Asik) was no longer a centerpiece of the organization. Knowing that he would either be traded or not re-signed, I'd probably save myself for the next organization that committed to me.

    Everyone hyped him up as a top ten center last year, and now he's not starting - even though he would start on about 20 other teams. If I were in his position, I'd wait to be 100% too. No point it shortening my career for a team that WILL move me eventually.

    What JVG knows or doesn't know is immaterial. Once he went to broadcasting, his opinion lost a little luster. You always try to stir up emotions in the target audience - that's in the Color Analyst 101 handbook.

    Edit: clarity

  • Bigtkirk says 6 months ago

    Giving Van Gundy's opinion credibility because of his close relationship with the Rockets is misguided.

    Van Gundy made a defamatory allegation regarding a professional athlete, which is not actionable only because Asik is a public figure. As such, Van Gundy should have disclosed the basis of his allegation. If the basis was a source with the Rockets, then Van Gundy breached a confidence because the Rockets have not made such an allegation publicly.

    Van Gundy is the one who has been irresponsible here.

  • rockets best fan says 6 months ago

    @PhillyCheese

    lol.........you make it sound like we are looking for a bigfoot or something :lol:there were no reports of Asik in the clubs before this injury so why would I expect them to suddenly appear because he's injured? I suspect Asik is a guy who keeps to himself a lot, not much of a party animal. at least that's the impression I get from him. if he's a party animal he hides it well. as for his trade requests they are real........not just fabricated by the media. even Morey has admitted to trying to satisfy that request...........what do you think the December 19 deadline was all about? you can choose to believe whatever you wish, but to me the evidence has outweighed my doubts

  • PhillyCheese says 6 months ago

    If Asik is faking the injury then where are all the reports of him jumping around at clubs, bowling alleys, etc. It's kinda hard to hide a 7'er and with today's intrusive media, someone must have seen him running about. But there has been zero such reports. Let's not crucify the man yet.

    As for the trade requests -Omer has not been constantly talking about leaving to the media. These reports all came from other sources or were leaked. So I tend to presume innocence until proven guilty.

  • rockets best fan says 6 months ago

    @RudyT1995

    I agree it would be less credit worthyif coming from some othersource, but from a VanGundy. more often than not they speak the truth. JVG is still close with D-Morey. I have heard Morey reference him several times as someone he consults with from time to time. I didn't need JVG to tell me what was happening............I figured that out on my own, however his statement confirms my suspicions.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 6 months ago I think Asik was really hurt but was sitting out until he was 100%. Most players play dinged up. I don't blame him one bit if that's the case. There's no reason to play injured. Why sacrifice your future for a franchise that doesn't want you? Of course my opinion is speculation just like everybody else's. The only person who knows the full truth is Asik.
  • inpropagation says 6 months ago

    So, Van Gundy, without disclosing his source of information, claims on national TV that Asik is faking an injury, which is one of the most damaging things that can be said publicly about a professional athlete.

    Meanwhile, the Rockets, who could suspend Asik if what Van Gundy says is true, have made no such claim. Indeed, the team has stated publicly that Asik's injury did not respond well to treatment and that multiple doctors have been consulted regarding the injury and treatment.

    Finally, because Asik has not been seriously injured before (what difference does that make?), does not cater to the media and threw a snit over playing time earlier in the season (not particularly unusual for an NBA player), Van Gundy's speculation is given credence.

    Frankly, I'm at least as inclined to question Van Gundy's judgment as I am Asik's.

    Van Gundy: [Omer Asik> is basically holding the Houston Rockets hostage because he is not starting. I don't care what anyone says, he's still not unable to play and it's wrong. So much of this game is mental. Asik was one of my favorite players because of his defense and rebounding ability, but if you're not mentally right, you can be of no help.

    Van Gundy cares not for what you say :D Maybe he really does know something.

    Of course I too would be stunned if this is all Asik and his agent just putting on a charade until approaching the deadline... that is pretty reprehensible, even. But what would just be as impressive is the Rockets' damage control concerning all this. Wow.

    FWIW, I'm pretty sure I read Jonathan Feigen say that he saw Asik's pretty swollen knee, but that was a while ago.

  • coachwood says 6 months ago

    IMO Tmac debacle comes to mind when i read this...

  • RudyT1995 says 6 months ago

    I would be quick to dismiss the rant if it hadn't come from JVG. He's still tight with people in the organization by all accounts. He wouldn't say something like that unless he knew something.

  • Incubus2803 says 6 months ago

    Bukko, that is naive thinking. it stops being coincidental when this plays out EXACTLY the way us "conspiracists" said it was going to play out. He sat out 2 whole months with a phantom injury, and as luck would have it, is back just in time for the trade deadline.

    this story has played out a million times over the years. and It was never about Asiks talent. I liked his as much as anyone last year.

    but he punked out this year. i hope we trade him. even in a salary dump. just get back a 3&D and some size. i dont care

  • ale11 says 6 months ago

    When do people realize it was far more than a simple thigh bruise. His knee kept swelling the entire time and you can't play on a massively swollen knee. When we get him back, everyone will be counting their blessings that we didn't trade him for scrubs.

    Asik is/was my favourite player in this roster, but everything has a limit and even though I have defended Omer in this forum (some forers could tell you that I tried to, rocketrick and feelingsupersonic for example), at some point, you just have to deal with the fact that he could be playing. He has played with a broken nose, so I'm pretty sure he has already played with swollen knees too (due to the knee braces, we haven't noticed it). Even though it could be concerning, I don't think is that awful that he isn't able to play. It's alright and understandable to be cautious, but I accepted the fact that he is not 100% willing to get back.

    I love the guy and I wish him all the best, here or wherever, but right now, I need my Rockets to be the best team they can and if he is not gonna help us, we need to ship them somewhere else for a guy who is willing to help us win as soon as possible.

    PS: I didn't want Howard, and we didn't need him, but if you can get him, you have to. Omer didn't deserve that, but that's the way sports are, and frankly, he is getting paid nicely to backup a great center with some fouling and injury (thankfully, not this year) issues, I'd be the first one to trade places with him :)

    PS2: To those I mentioned (Rick and Mario), I have to admit that Dwight seems to be putting more effort or maybe the whole "feeding Dwight down low" seems more natural and less detrimental to the team-flow, he also seems to be engaging a little more in defense. Let's hope he is for real and is was wrong from day one :)

  • rocketrick says 6 months ago

    When do people realize it was far more than a simple thigh bruise. His knee kept swelling the entire time and you can't play on a massively swollen knee. When we get him back, everyone will be counting their blessings that we didn't trade him for scrubs.


    I truly hope you're right. It really depends on Asik's heart and mental toughness at this point. Is he bought into the Rockets or just going through the motions? I suppose we'll see soon enough.

    Like they say, prepare for the best and plan for the worst.
  • Buckko says 6 months ago When do people realize it was far more than a simple thigh bruise. His knee kept swelling the entire time and you can't play on a massively swollen knee. When we get him back, everyone will be counting their blessings that we didn't trade him for scrubs.
  • Incubus2803 says 6 months ago

    THEY WANT TO TRADE HIM. THEYRE NOT GOING TO DO ANYTHING TO ROCK THE BOAT.

    i dont understand whats so hard to understand about that.

    have you guys never watchced professional sports?

    van gundy gets credence because hes been in NBA locker rooms for decades and he knows what divas these guys are

    OH AND HE REALIZES THAT TAKING 2 MONTHS TO RECOVER FROM A BRUISE IS ABSURD

  • dbd says 6 months ago

    Front office and coaching staffs are as guilty as Asik if injury was a fake.
    Fine him if he refused to play without any valid excuse. For now, we got "believe" in what they all said. But do I believe it, ummmmm....

  • timetodienow1234567 says 6 months ago Lol. Then nothing is a conspiracy theory.
  • Bigtkirk says 6 months ago

    So, Van Gundy, without disclosing his source of information, claims on national TV that Asik is faking an injury, which is one of the most damaging things that can be said publicly about a professional athlete.

    Meanwhile, the Rockets, who could suspend Asik if what Van Gundy says is true, have made no such claim. Indeed, the team has stated publicly that Asik's injury did not respond well to treatment and that multiple doctors have been consulted regarding the injury and treatment.

    Finally, because Asik has not been seriously injured before (what difference does that make?), does not cater to the media and threw a snit over playing time earlier in the season (not particularly unusual for an NBA player), Van Gundy's speculation is given credence.

    Frankly, I'm at least as inclined to question Van Gundy's judgment as I am Asik's.