Hey, it happens. The Rockets set a Thursday deadline for their Asik auction and hoped to create a bidding war for a proven defensive-minded center. One never materialized, and sources told ESPN.com that Boston's offer of Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee and a future first-round pick was the best offer on the table, but not enough to convince Houston to make a deal.
Here's what Celtics fans should take away from Boston's interest in Asik (if it wasn't obvious enough given the way the team has competed this season): The Celtics are not content to sit back and let the draft-lottery pingpong balls dictate their rebuilding process. If there's a way for Boston to get better now -- and not hinder the team's future plans -- then the Celtics must consider it while attempting to accelerate through this transition process.
Maybe the Celtics and Rockets will chat again down the road. There are 63 days until the Feb. 20 trade deadline and plenty can change before then. Center remains a position of need for the Celtics; their lack of pure size might be the most glaring need once Rajon Rondo returns from his ACL surgery and rehab in early 2014.
It's too early to know exactly what direction this Celtics team is headed in. While some see them as overachievers atop the Atlantic Division with a 12-15 record, first-year coach Brad Stevens has noted his team "is not lighting the world on fire." Another month of basketball should tell us if Boston can stick around in the hunt for the division title.
For those Celtics fans with no interest in losing games in order to better the team's draft position, not being able to close the Asik deal is likely a sore issue. Adding Asik's defensive talents to Boston's frontcourt could have turned a top-10 defense into a formidable unit. Asik could have helped against the East's established bigs, like Brooklyn's Brook Lopez and Indiana's Roy Hibbert.
Lee and Bass didn't let rumors about a possible swap impact their play in Boston's 107-106 home loss to Detroit on Wednesday night. The two showed up at the Celtics' off-day holiday event at a local hospital Thursday with smiles on their faces as any chance of a deal evaporated. It's an encouraging sign that Stevens has been able to keep players focused on the larger team goal even when their names appear in trade rumors. Maybe Lee and Bass will operate with a chip on their shoulders. Ultimately, all Boston can do now is remain focused on the future.
Despite the roster surplus at shooting guard and power forward, Stevens has said he likes coaching this group. He's gotten maximum effort out of numerous players, and that's helped Boston remain competitive in almost every game this season.
The Celtics can put Asik on their watch list, but there ought to be virtually no fallout from Houston ending the bidding process without a winner. The C's will look to continue their development on the court, and the front office will keep monitoring ways to improve the team utilizing the team's stockpile of assets.