In an effort to unload disgruntled center Omer Asik, the Houston Rockets have engaged in trade talks with multiple teams and are demanding an impact player in return, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Rival executives say that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been active in discussing possible deals for Asik, but his asking price has been too high so far. Morey has been willing to accommodate Asik's summertime trade request, but has found little traction on possible deals.
Unless a team is willing to give the Rockets a frontline player who can help them win in the short-term, Morey is open to acquiring a largely unprotected first-round pick in the loaded 2014 NBA draft, sources said.
Beyond the unrest with Asik, the Rockets will be without third-string center Greg Smith, who is expected to miss 10 days because of a sprained knee, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Smith injured his right knee in the Rockets' victory over New York on Thursday. An MRI on Friday was negative.
Houston and Washington did discuss a deal involving Asik, league sources said, but the Wizards ultimately acquired Phoenix's Marcin Gortat to fill its hole at center. The Rockets had no interest in taking back center Emeka Okafor, who could be lost for the season because of a neck injury.
Morey and Asik's agent, Andy Miller, have been in regular contact about facilitating a trade. Asik, 27, requested the trade shortly after the Rockets reached agreement with free-agent center Dwight Howard in July.
Asik can't publicly demand a trade without risking a fine by the NBA. Those discussions have taken place in private.
It is unlikely a deal will happen before Dec. 15, when many players in the NBA, who signed as free agents in the offseason, become eligible to be traded.
Houston coach Kevin McHale recently abandoned his short-lived attempt at starting Asik and Howard on the Rockets' frontline. Asik is considered a starting-caliber NBA center, especially dominant on the defensive end. Asik has two years and $20 million left on his deal, which runs out in the summer of 2015.
One deal that appealed to the Rockets included reuniting Dwight Howard and New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson, who played together with the Orlando Magic. New Orleans had showed interest in an Anderson-for-Asik deal around last summer's NBA draft, but talks never gathered much momentum, sources said.
The Pelicans need a strong, interior player to alleviate the physical burden of rising young star Anthony Davis, but thus far have been unwilling to re-engage talks with Houston on the deal, sources said. Anderson is the kind of stretch four – a jump-shooting power forward – who would fit perfectly with Howard on the Houston frontline.