The mystery here, apart from the obvious question about where he ultimately winds up, is what Houston does with Asik until it can locate that appealing deal.
The center was scratched from Saturday's home game against Denver essentially because he's so unhappy with his new role that he's in no state to play. Word is Asik has been asking the Rockets pretty much once a week, since Dwight Howard's arrival in July, to please trade him elsewhere. And now losing his starting spot, on top of what was already a reduced role, has clearly knocked the 27-year-old back.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com that Asik was challenged by coaches and teammates this week for not being "engaged" in the wake of the lineup change, which took effect when Asik was moved to the bench for Wednesday's game in Philadelphia. And he hasn't played since the challenge, logging zero minutes Thursday night in New York while in uniform and not even dressing against the Nuggets.
The new challenge for the Rockets, then, is getting Asik's mind right and getting him back on the floor as soon as possible, given the very real chance that a workable trade won't materialize until after Dec. 15, when dozens of players who signed new contracts in July become eligible to be moved.
Dec. 15, for those not inclined to count it up, is still 28 days away.
"I understand it’s tough for him," Howard told reporters after Houston's morning shootaround. "The only thing I can do is be his friend off the floor and help him any way I can. I understand it's a tough situation for him, but we are all family and we have to learn to fight through frustrations."
Added Rockets forward Chandler Parsons: “He had a great year last year and to bring in someone over him has to be a little frustrating. It is part of the business and you have to be a professional about it and come to work every day. He is on the Rockets, so he has to act like that and come to play and come to win."
Rest assured, though, that eager suitors for Asik will materialize eventually, no matter how mopey he seems right now and even with Houston hoping for a front-line player in return. The rebounding ability and rim presence Asik can provide makes him a starting-caliber center for numerous teams in this league.
The Rockets, furthermore, realize this situation has strayed beyond repair, which means they’re best off trading Asik as soon as possible. They’re indeed asking a lot -- since the Rockets still relish the luxury of always having an elite defensive anchor on the floor even though Howard and Asik haven’t worked at all as tandem -- but Asik has realistically moved to the top of the list of veterans you can expect to be moved before the league’s Feb. 20 trade deadline.
After Asik formally reiterated his trade demand to Rockets management through agent Andy Miller, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday that Houston informed them it has no current plans to deal Asik.
Yet the growing sense around the league is that, in this case, current is going to be a very fluid term.