When Dwight Howard missed the March 17th game against the Utah Jazz with a left ankle injury, it was time to see what Omer Asik still had in him. The center’s name was brought up in several trade rumors throughout the season and it was all but certain the Rockets would trade him before their self-imposed deadline. When the Rockets kept him past that deadline AND the actual trade deadline, many wondered how Asik would respond being “stuck” behind Dwight Howard.
Howard’s injury was reportedly day-to-day, but everyone, including Asik had to know the injury could linger. You would think with the Rockets in 4th place in the Western Conference they couldn’t afford to be without their superstar center for several games, but you would be wrong. Asik had been averaging close to 15 minutes a game since returning to the bench on February 8th, but he was ready to go when called upon on March 17th against the Jazz.
Asik started the next three games and averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds in three wins with Howard out. Howard did return against the Bobcats and 76′ers, but re-aggravated his ankle injury and hasn’t played since.
The Rockets are 3-4 since Howard has been out of the lineup for the second time, but it’s not because of Asik. The 7-footer from Turkey has averaged 11.7 points and 15.9 rebounds per game during that span, including two 23-rebound games.
Daryl Morey is looking pretty good right now for keeping Asik. It’s possible he may be more lucky than good in this case, as all reports indicated the Rockets were looking to “rid themselves” of Asik. It wasn’t because Asik is an overrated player, but that contract of his could potentially ruin certain plans that Morey had in store for the Rockets this summer.
Whatever the case may be, having Asik still on the squad could have saved the Rockets team from starting on the road in April. Asik is still one of the better centers in the NBA, and having a superstar center along with a top 15 center backing him up will prove to be valuable come playoff time.