Omer Asik burns Bulls with big night

CHICAGO -- Omer Asik's play on Tuesday night spoke louder than anything he could have said before or after he played his former Chicago Bulls teammates.

The Turkish center, who signed with the Houston Rockets over the summer after the Bulls declined to match a three-year offer sheet worth about $25 million, shined brightest on the Christmas stage, scoring 20 points and grabbing 18 rebounds in the win.

"It's been a little weird," he admitted before the game at the United Center. "But it's OK. I've been here a lot."

While Asik's improvement may have surprised some across the league, his old teammates or the new guys within the Bulls locker room aren’t among them. They always knew he could play and they always figured he could have this kind of success.

"Stats don't lie," Bulls guard Nate Robinson said. "He's doing way better. At the same time, every guy's got to be accountable for getting better within his self and I think he's done that. He's been a big that's always been on the court, always caused havoc and he did that tonight."

The only people who may be even a little surprised are his new peers in Houston. They love his work ethic, but even they weren't sure just how fast he would pick everything up.

"You liked what you saw in short minutes but I always say in our league every coach really wants to win," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "So if the guy's playing short minutes, why is he playing short minutes? I think in Omer's case it was just really a matter of they had a real solid front line and they got Noah who's fantastic, (Taj) Gibson who's really good, O fills in and did a great job here. He's a mainstay for us. He's our best post defender, big guy, has the ability to get in and rebound in a crowd. He's tough, he's rugged, he's been fantastic for us."

He's been the type of consistent center the Bulls have been missing off their bench all season -- which makes the fact that he ended up walking away for nothing over the summer even more painful.

"I think he was great just rolling to the basket, off pick and rolls," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "They play four out, one in, and he was able to get a lot of easy things around the rim. I think we should have fouled him more around the rim, made him earn it a little bit more around the rim but he played very well."