HOUSTON -- With the Houston Rockets breaking their neck -- and almost the bank -- to land center Dwight Howard via free agency this past summer, Omer Asik suddenly felt like an unwanted man.
So Asik did what any center who averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 minutes last season would do. He asked the Rockets to trade him.
The Rockets, of course, didn't trade Asik. But they did relent and move Howard to power forward so Asik could remain in the starting lineup as the team's center.
At times, it has made for some awkward movements, since Howard is generally known as the game's most dominant center. And now that dominant center isn't even playing the center position after signing a four-year, $88 million contract with Houston.
In short, the Rockets really don't want to part ways with Asik. So they've found a way to appease him.
"I’ve been trying to make him feel like he’s wanted,'' Howard said. "I know it’s a tough situation for him.
"He had a great season and then I come here and a lot of people kind of felt like he is not wanted, but I like him. I want us to be able to work together and work through this because I believe with me and him -- not just playing together -- but him coming in and subbing for me, and then me coming back and just that one-two punch of me and him, I think it will be deadly if we both sell out to it.''
The Howard-Asik unique look gives the Rockets the Twin Tower concept they had in the mid-1980's with Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. Howard, though, doesn't believe Rockets coach Kevin McHale can use this alignment on a consistent basis -- meaning it could lead to the Rockets eventually trading Asik.
"I think it could work at times,'' Howard said. "I don’t think he want to have us start every game together, but I think there will be times when they’ll need me to play other team’s best scorer as a big and stuff like that, and I’m fine with that.''
Still, the 6-11 Howard knows when he's on the floor along with the 7-foot Asik, they'll create a world of problems for the opposing team. Particularly with guard James Harden's ability to relentlessly drive to the basket.
"On defense you’ve got two guys who can block shots and rebound,'' Howard said. "On the offensive end you’ve got the pick-and-roll with me and him will be deadly.
"You have me coming down the lane, you have James coming down the lane, he’s ducking in hard on the weakside. Teams are going to have to decide who they’re going to give up the shot to, and he can finish around the basket.''
Howard and the Rockets will put all of that to a test tonight at 7 at the Toyota Center when they host the Dallas Mavericks.
-- Dwain Price
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