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Friday, December 13, 2013
Could Omer Asik land in Cleveland?

By Marc Stein

The Houston Rockets remain on course to trade Omer Asik by their self-imposed deadline of Thursday, according to sources familiar with the Rockets' thinking.

As for where ...

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Varejao
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Asik
TNT's David Aldridge tossed out a new possibility Thursday night during the Rockets' nationally televised loss at Portland, introducing the concept of an Asik-for-Anderson Varejao trade.

Sources close to the process Friday stopped well short of describing the Cavs as Houston's preferred trading partner, but Cleveland certainly has to be added to the list of potential Asik destinations.

The Rockets, meanwhile, continue to give off the vibe that they will find a deal they like by the Dec. 19 buzzer, which they established last week and is the final day they can package anyone they acquire in an Asik trade with other players in a subsequent deal before the league's Feb. 20 trade deadline.

The rest of the latest scuttle from the Asik front:

• The Rockets have shown interest in Varejao in previous years, but one source close to the process indicates to ESPN.com that Houston would not be willing to deal Asik for Varejao straight up. It's believed that Houston would seek at least one more asset in the exchange if talks with the Cavs ever progress to a serious stage, presumably a future first-round pick. Which raises the question: Is Cleveland really willing to surrender that much for Asik -- and absorb Asik's $15 million salary for next season?

• Word is that the Cavs' preference remains upgrading at small forward -- with Chicago's Luol Deng at the top of Cleveland's list -- rather than bringing in a center.

• Many league insiders maintain that the Rockets' No. 1 target in an Asik deal is Hawks forward Paul Millsap, who will join more than 100 players who signed contracts in July in becoming trade-eligible Dec. 15, which happens to be Sunday. We caution, though, that gauging the Hawks' true willingness to part with Millsap -- after signing him to a two-year, $19 million deal that increasingly ranks as one of the league's best bargains -- remains a mystery thanks to ever-coy Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.

ESPN.com reported last week that the Rockets are determined to trade Asik to an Eastern Conference destination in part to keep his highly rated defense away from current teammate Dwight Howard. Two more teams, then, that continue to be mentioned as potential trade partners for Asik in addition to Atlanta and Cleveland are Philadelphia (Thaddeus Young) and Milwaukee (Ersan Ilyasova).

• What do Millsap, Young and Ilyasova have in common? All three can theoretically operate next to Howard as a power forward with the clear ability to play outside and stretch the floor. Let's see how the fact that Varejao lacks the same range affects Houston's appetite to pursue such a deal. If the Rockets are intent on completing the best trade they can make by Thursday, they might not wait around for a floor-spacer.