Latest rumbles from the Omer Asik trade sweepstakes:
There is no hard proof yet to support the theory -- first presented in this tweet from my USA Today colleague Sam Amick -- that the Houston Rockets already have a trade framework in place to solve their Asik conundrum and are only waiting to see if someone else out there steps up to beat the mystery offer between now and Houston’s self-imposed Thursday deadline to deal Asik.
While strong rumbles persist that the Philadelphia 76ers are the team most likely to go along with such an arrangement, given the close ties between Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Philly counterpart Sam Hinkie, there's fresh talk in circulation about another potential co-conspirator.
The Boston Celtics.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next to Dwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first.
The same Rockets who happen to have a GM (Morey) and coach (Kevin McHale) who have long-standing relationships with Celts president Danny Ainge.
So, yes, I’d say you should keep an eye on Boston.
Question here that must be asked loudly: Can Houston, in whichever Asik trade it ultimately chooses, really afford to take back a player possessing substantial long-term money like Green (two seasons at $18.4 million after this one) or Philly's Thaddeus Young (two seasons at $19.4 million after this one) when it knows it's going to have to give an extension bump to Chandler Parsons as soon as Parsons is eligible for the raise his play merits via extension?
Which is another way of saying you shouldn't be surprised if Young gets routed to a third team should the Rockets and Sixers officially join forces to construct an Asik deal, as some observers have been expecting all month.
The latest signals out of Cleveland indicate that the Cavaliers like the thought of keeping Anderson Varejao better than the prospect of trading him for Asik.
The Cavs haven't ruled themselves out of participating in the forthcoming Asik trade, sources say, but word is they'd prefer to join in as a third-team facilitator that helps Asik land in a different city.
ESPN.com reported Friday that the Rockets, for the record, would not be willing to do an Asik-for-Varejao trade straight up regardless.
As stated Friday morning in our most recent Asik post, trying to gauge Atlanta's true willingness to part with the floor-stretching Paul Millsap -- whom Houston naturally covets in this situation -- is a major challenge thanks to ever-coy Hawks GM Danny Ferry.
Yet more than one longtime Ferry-watcher is convinced that what he's trying do in Atlanta is amass a collection of Millsaps (translation: coveted trade pieces) so he has enough of them to jump right into the heart of the bidding when the next NBA superstar becomes available via trade like we saw in February 2011, when Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were traded on back-to-back days before the deadline.
The Ferry-led Hawks are way too coy to be completely ruled out of contention for Asik. But it appears, heading into the final few days of the Asik sweepstakes, that Atlanta prefers to wait for a bigger prize ... even though acquiring an elite rim protector like Asik would allow Al Horford to move to his preferred position of power forward.
It was Dec. 6 when ESPN.com reported that the Rockets began telling teams that they were determined to trade Asik between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19, which would ensure that any player involved in the transaction could be re-packaged by his new team in a subsequent trade before the league's Feb. 20 trade deadline passes.
Some 10 days into this exercise, numerous teams involved and on the periphery of the talks have indicated that they indeed expect the Rockets to take this all the way to Thursday to give themselves as much time as possible to find the best deal.
Jonathan Feigen, longtime Rockets beat writer from the Houston Chronicle, quoted a "person with knowledge of the Rockets' thinking" earlier Sunday saying that the Dec. 19 deadline was set in part because Morey indeed already has an offer he knows he's willing to take. The source told Feigen: "It very likely will be a pretty complicated, three-way deal. There are a lot of moving parts."
Feigen also reported Sunday that Sixers center Spencer Hawes, with a far friendlier contract than Young's to use in a future move, as well as the ability to back up Howard at center if Houston keeps him, could well appeal to the Rockets more than Young does.