Omer Asik’s departure to Houston left a sour taste in the mouth of many fans. The Turkish big man emerged as a defensive anchor for the Bulls last season and his value on that side of the ball caught the attention of a number of teams around the league, including his current squad, the Houston Rockets.
Since relocating south, Asik has continued his strong defensive play, while also improved on the offensive end of the floor as well. His growth as a player could be seen in the 20 point, 18 rebound line he dropped on his old team on Christmas Day at the United Center, and his commitment to hard work has earned him a lot of respect from his new teammates and coaches.
“Having him on the floor is a game changer,” said Jeremy Lin after the Rockets 120-97 victory on Tuesday night. “He’s an incredible help and individual defender. He’s getting to play heavy minutes now and showing what he can do.”
Indeed. Asik averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season in Chicago, while playing 14.7 minutes per game. Now in Houston as a starter, Omer is averaging 10.9 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 30.9 minutes. It’s hard to predict if a player will break out or not once you increase his minutes, and given what Asik is doing now for the Rockets, very few can say they knew he had that kind of potential.
“Omer was really good for us tonight as you can see with his 20 points and 18 rebounds. He’s a big time player for us in the middle,” said Rockets head coach Kevin McHale who knows a thing or two about big time players in the middle, given his Hall of Fame pedigree and accomplishments with the Boston Celtics in the 80’s. “Tonight he was blocking shots, getting rebounds and out-letting the ball for us … this was a very good game for him.”
Lin concurred with his coach’s assessment on Omer being the difference in Houston’s victory over Chicago, and praised his big man on his development since being in Houston.
“We did a good job on the boards. Omer was key to that and we tried to get out and run from there … He has great hands and can also finish at the basket. He’s a very large human being and tough to stop.
“My first week of training camp I saw him and knew he had potential. People his size can’t usually do what he does with his passing and catching the ball. He has great hands.”
The Bulls have been playing better lately, but they certainly miss Omer’s presence. So do the fans. Asik received a rousing ovation from the UNited Center congregation when his name was called during player intros announcing the starting lineups.
Chicago fans fans will always respect a player they know gave it their all when they wore the Bulls uniform. But it does still sting a little seeing Omer play so well for the Rockets, knowing how much the Bulls could use his help right now.
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