- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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The 24-year-old Turkish center has improved so rapidly that efforts like his 11-point, 16-rebound performance in Thursday night's 84-73 win over the New Jersey Nets have become more common, even for a rookie who struggled mightily at times earlier in the season to find his role.
"That's almost every game with him," Rose said of Asik's latest performance. "To come in and get that many rebounds. Got to the free-throw line, dunked a lot of balls, blocked shots, played a lot of defense, that's what we need from him. We're happy that he's on the team."
The Bulls needed Asik more than usual with Joakim Noah struggling to play with much energy because of the flu. A few months ago there might have been some hesitation to play Asik 25 minutes, but not anymore.
"He's been playing so good for us, and I think that's the beauty of this team," Noah said. "We've got a lot of weapons. And Omer is someone who lives in the gym, improving, his confidence is getting better and better, and he's understanding how he can score in the offense. He's playing at a really high level, and we need that to do what we want to do."
Asik was part of a frontline that dominated the Nets at times down low, outscoring them 44-22 in the paint, while collecting 50 rebounds in the process.
"I think we've got five bigs that are very solid rebounders," Noah said. "Thibs preaches rebounding all the time. And I think [with Carlos Boozer injured], we're still solid rebounding. When I went down we're still very solid rebounding. What Kurt Thomas and what Omer are bringing to the table is huge for us. What Taj [Gibson] is bringing to the table for us with his versatility, the bigs have been doing a great job."
The Bulls benefitted from a big contribution by a player who stepped up in place of a hobbled teammate. With Boozer out of the lineup again because of a sprained ankle, and Noah dealing with the flu, it was Asik who came through in the clutch for the Bulls.
"The thing about today's game that was good, even in the past few games [Asik] struggled a little bit, but his work has been so consistent," Thibodeau said. "And I think he's gotten a lot of confidence. Just kept working the game, working the game, and you could see he just had great rhythm on his rebounding. And he went through that stretch, the last three or four games he was almost there, he got some balls but he just seemed to be missing.
"And today he had that great rebounding rhythm again, it seemed like anything that was near him he was getting. The thing that I liked was that he was going up so strong. It was great. And that energy, I thought it really inspired us too. It was great effort."
It was the type of effort the Bulls have come to expect from Asik and the one that made him so un-tradeable a few weeks ago.
"He works hard, listens, that's the biggest thing," Rose said. "He's doing everything coach wants him to do, especially for a big, and we need him on this team."
23hMatt Walks, ESPN.com
23hJason McCallum, ESPN Stats & Info