The Houston Rockets are telling other teams they intend to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik by Dec. 19, according to sources familiar with the team's plans.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Rockets began calling potential trade partners Friday to let them know they intend to deal Asik between Dec. 15 and Dec. 19.
The significance of such a specific window is two-fold. Dec. 15 is the first day players who signed new contracts in the offseason can be plugged into trades, and Dec. 19 is the last day any player acquired by Houston in an Asik deal can be repackaged with other players before the league's Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The calls made by the Rockets on Friday are reminiscent of their approach with Thomas Robinson during the draft in June.
It was an open secret that the Rockets would trade Robinson to help clear salary-cap space for their pursuit of Dwight Howard. Taking this step with Asik is in essence an attempt to persuade potential suitors to put their best offer on the table quickly now that the Rockets have established such an exact time frame for trying to complete a trade.
Asik has wanted a new address from the moment Howard arrived in July and has privately requested a trade numerous times in the months since, sources said.
The Rockets tried playing Howard and Asik together and were initially hesitant to entertain trade offers for the Turkish big man on the premise that the luxury of having either Howard or Asik on the court at all times was too valuable to surrender so quickly.
But Asik's angry reaction last month to being dropped out of the starting lineup by Rockets coach Kevin McHale changed the dynamic.
Team officials are now aggressively trying to find a workable trade that will not only bring back a worthy asset for a player of Asik's caliber as a defensive anchor and a rebounder but one that also happens quickly enough to ensure that Houston -- known as one of the league's most active teams trade-wise -- maintains flexibility to make subsequent moves on deadline day.
Asik has repeatedly declined to comment on his trade request, knowing that any public discussion of the matter would subject him to a fine from the league office.
The 27-year-old started his first 90 games as a Rocket after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2012 before declaring himself unavailable to play the Knicks in New York on Nov. 14 to snap a streak of 239 consecutive games played in the regular season.
Asik was shelved this week by the Rockets with what is listed as a thigh contusion. He's averaging a mere 18.3 minutes per game, down from last season's career high of 30.3, and is averaging just 4.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.
Asik is owed $15 million in salary next season in a balloon payment in the final year of his contract that only counts against the salary cap at $8.4 million but could still dissuade some bidders.