Bulls must let Asik go

Down in Houston, where they’re always a go for launch, at least one of Stacey King’s trademark catch phrases can live on.

It might not be the phrase they’re use to saying at Mission Control, but hopefully the Rocket they’re ready to call Omer, doesn’t have the capability to land in Chicago with a $14 million cap hit in 2014.

That’s something the Bulls would like to avoid, especially when it’s for a backup center, who averaged 2.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in an average of nearly 15 minutes per game for two seasons.

For that, the Rockets can have Omer Asik for the three-year, $24.2 million offer sheet they agreed to. They can take him. The Bulls will wave with a smile knowing that while their roster may be a little thin next season, it just pocketed an additional $25 million to lock up Taj Gibson, who will be in Asik’s shoes next summer as a restricted free agent. 

Bulls GM Gar Forman said it was a top priority this summer to re-sign Asik. And although Forman probably never envisioned Asik’s price to rise so high, so quick, the $5 million-per for the next two seasons would have been a pill he could have swallowed. Although that’s pushing it for someone in a supporting role with the hands of ex-Bear Roy Williams and free throw shooting of Chris Dudley.

But it’s the $14.1 million in year 3 that changes everything. The Bulls wouldn’t be borderline delirious to give Asik, a marginal, seldom-used stand-in with limited ability, that kind of deal. They’d have to be high on bath salts, Miami Cannibal-like to agree to that.

As for Houston, they must be on that drug or think he’s the next Eddie Robinson or something. Obviously, they didn’t see the free throws he missed in Game 6 against the 76ers nor the 40-point, 20-rebound nights he had all the time in Chicago. 

OK, so Asik isn’t close to Kevin Love’s numbers, but he’s done a nice job as Joakim Noah’s understudy. A nice job that earns him about half of what the Rockets are offering. He’s what you want out of a part-time, soft, seven-footer. He provides good minutes, blocks shots, runs the floor well, plays solid defense at times and fits into head coach Tom Thibodeau’s scheme. On occasion, Omer puts together some decent performances, but nothing close to MVP standards.

He is not even a sixth man, deserving $24 million. The Bulls know they have to keep their core intact. And Chicagoans know this well; it’s actually happening in the same building on the ice rink. So you know Asik’s fate.

The Bulls having a backup for Noah is just as important as them having someone who can thrive in Tom Thibodeau’s system. They want that luxury, but not the tax. The business side has 14 million reasons.

The Bulls will be on the hook close to a $70 million cap hit next season if it were to sign Asik, which exceeds the current luxury tax by a million but falls short of the projected tax hike by a million as well. It leaves very little wiggle room to sign a vet like Kirk Hinrich, even with Jerry Reinsdorf’s willingness to go over the luxury tax.

And that’s something you will believe when you see it.

In 2013-14, Carlos Boozer, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Noah will combine for $60 million of the cap alone, which might be time to finally use the amnesty clause on Boozer, a wish for many Bulls fans. Boozer may be able to survive the clause in 2013 barring some miracle, but in 2014 he certainly won’t. Boozer, Noah and Rose are owed $46.8 million and Deng will have to be re-signed. Add Asik’s $14 million that season and Jerry Reinsdorf, if he hasn’t already, will have a heart attack. Look for Boozer to probably have his last year with the Bulls coming up. 

Don’t forget about Gibson. The Bulls can’t afford to lose him. His inflated salary isn’t even factored in the 2013-14 cap above, and with plans to bring over Nikola Mirotic around that time as well, a man who tore it up in Spain this past year, he has to get paid, too. Asik really picked a bad time to sign an offer sheet, especially if he actually liked playing in Chicago.

May be Houston knew the Bulls’ cap situation all along. Toronto is doing the same to New York with Landry Fields. There’s a new trend with the latest CBA and it’s becoming very taboo. Teams are driving up the cost of other team’s restricted free agents, all to which they can’t afford them. But why of all teams would Houston be driving up the price on the Bulls? They don’t play in the same conference. May be their GM, a Northwestern alum, has a vendetta on the Bulls or something? Who knows.

Which leads to the belief in sacrificing Asik for the sake of the team. He can’t have the kind of contract Deng, Boozer, Rose and Noah have for playing 15 minutes a night and missing free throws like he’s Harry Dunne in a hotel room with gun.

So let Omer put Houston on his shoulders and be the one to prove he can live up to that contract for the Rockets. 

And when Omer can’t and Houston has to ship his expiring contract for cap space in 2014, Chicago will be happy it had a leery confidence.

At the right rate and price, Asik is a perfect role player for the Bulls and is very much valuable. But its core is even more. To ‘Asik and Destroy’ this team for Omer’s sake, seems like a mission failure. 

Go ahead Houston, we are a go for launch. 

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