Bernstein: Did Bulls Make Wrong Call On Asik?
By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) I love it when people write dumb things.
Get a load of what this idiot said in July, when the Bulls were deciding whether or not to match the Houston Rockets’ offer to backup center Omer Asik:
“That’s too much money for a non-starter who can’t score,” he opined, referencing the poison-pill provision that would inflate Asik’s salary in year three of the deal from $5 million to $15 million. “He’s a good defender of the basket, valuable as a shot-changer, and may eventually sharpen his offensive game into something more than fumbling passes and missing free throws, but the reasoning for his retention is curious, at best.”
I hope this Dan Bernstein guy is paying attention to the early returns through Houston’s seven games.
Asik has been nothing short of a beast, averaging 9.9 points and an NBA-third-best 13 rebounds per game. He already has three double-double performances. He has made 21-of-29 free throws and blocks a shot per game. He’s playing 32 minutes per night, largely because he has stayed out of foul trouble — he has only reached four fouls once, in fact.
Read that last sentence again if you have to. I did, and I typed it.
Houston’s record is an underwhelming 3-4, and national attention has been focused more on the team’s two other acquisitions – intensely mediocre and over-famous point guard Jeremy Lin and freshly-unfettered star investment James Harden – but Asik is becoming his own story. It may not turn out to be a good one for the Bulls, and those of us who were ready to see him off so blithely.
The Bulls’ looming salary-cap issues discussed over the summer are real enough, no matter how well Asik plays, and there’s no getting around that. That 2014-15 year would still have Derrick Rose’s $19 million and Joakim Noah’s $12 million on the books. Carlos Boozer would make $15 million, but it appears increasingly likely that he’ll be excised via the amnesty provision. It also looks worse in hindsight now that we see the very team-friendly extension engineered for Taj Gibson – four years of base pay averaging just over $8 million, when most of us had him pegged as a lock for considerably more.
In the larger scheme of things, it may not matter. Rose needs to be paired with another real star or two before any dreams of a title can be rekindled, and all else is secondary. The difference between Noah and Asik may be minimal when all abilities are considered, even if the latter’s development continues.
And Asik surely will not continue at quite this pace. He did not become magically better. Right?
But he’s only 26, remember, and could easily have been an important part of the next real run in the middle of his NBA prime. There is always a way to find room for effective players, even if that third-year balloon still seems daunting.
That silly columnist in July described a Bulls decision to match as “impossible to justify.” He said that Asik would be “the 7-foot-tall, walking symbol of expensive mediocrity,” and that the deal was “too much money for a non-starter who can’t score.”
There are 75 regular-season games remaining, and some of those thoughts may still prove true in time.
Yet the Bulls, and those who argued in support of their eventual call, at least have to be wondering if they might have screwed this one up.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of Boers and Bernstein since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.
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