- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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They are not, I'm told, boxing themselves into a specific position to target an exchange.
Word is they're just looking for a difference maker. At any position.
The Rockets, according to the latest whispers, are still in the early stages of working through their Asik options, because trading a proven defensive anchor who protects the rim and gobbles up rebounds isn't necessarily as easy it sounds. (Not when said defensive anchor also has well-chronicled offensive limitations.)
Houston's other conundrum is this: There is some sentiment within the organization that Asik, while widely regarded as superfluous to requirements now that Dwight Howard has landed on NASA soil, is the Rockets' third-best player.
So they've got to get something undeniably good in return to convince themselves that it's truly better to make a deal as opposed to dealing with the internal headaches of keeping Asik around and trying to keep him plugged in when he's not starting ... but also knowing that he represents incredibly luxurious insurance for Howard, whose mere presence on the roster ensures that the basket will be protected for all 48 minutes (and beyond).
I still have Asik right at the top of my Vets Sure To Be Dealt Before The Trade Deadline list, because he so badly wants out, and because trades are what the Daryl Morey Rockets do.
You also have to have Iman Shumpert, Derrick Williams and Arron Afflalo/Jameer Nelson up there. Especially Shumpert now that, according to league sources, both the Knicks and the player himself concede that a trade is inevitable. But I remain convinced something will happen on the Asik front between Dec. 15 and the Feb. 20 buzzer for deals.
I know, I know: You want to know where.
Not as much as I do, believe me.
What can be safely projected at this juncture is that the prospect of an Asik trade to New Orleans for a package headlined by Ryan Anderson, no matter how many times you've read about it, is facing long odds to ever go through.
And not simply because the Pelicans -- like a couple of other teams that could use Asik badly; Dallas and OKC come to mind -- are regional rivals of Houston's.
There are at least three other factors working against the prospect of an Anderson reunion with Dwight Howard in Clutch City:
1. The Pelicans love how Anderson fits into their core and are said to believe his ability to space the floor does as much for Anthony Davis as a bruising center like Asik would.
2. The Pelicans love the production Anderson gives them, and the very reasonable contract he possesses in relation to that production. Asik's offensive limitations will be even harder to stomach next season when that balloon payment valued at nearly $15 million kicks in.
3. Anderson is under contract to the Pelicans for two more seasons after this one on those favorable terms: $34 million over four years. Asik can become a free agent in the summer of 2015, and likewise can't be extended by the team that acquires him this season because he has fewer than three seasons left on his current contract.
Unless a third team emerges to change the dynamics of a deal headlined by Asik and Anderson, you're advised not to count on New Orleans solving this pretty tricky trade riddle.
40dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo