Rockets agree to 3-year, $25.1 million deal with Omer Asik

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The Rockets have been looking for a center to hang their hat on since Yao Ming retired. On Sunday, they came to terms with a player they hope will at least do the job for a little bit.

Multiple sources, including Yahoo Sports report that Houston has come to an agreement with restricted free agent center for the Bulls, Omer Asik on a three-year, $25.1 million deal.

Asik is the perfect free agent for fans and pundits to debate. Low-minutes, high production, defensive-minded, big man in a smallball world free agent center who a contender (the Bulls) hold the rights to match to. Maybe most interesting is that Asik falls under the Arenas rule for contracts. So if the Bulls match, it’s under a $5 million – $5 million-$15 million distribution over three years. If they don’t, the Rockets get him for just over $8 million a year.

It’s easy to claim that Asik is overpaid, due to his low points production. He’s not a scorer. He plays limited minutes, and can pick up fouls and lose energy quickly. But he’s also one of the best defensive centers in the league if you look at him from an advanced metrics standpoint. No surprise that would interest Daryl Morey. Asik was in the 96th percentile in points allowed per possession this season, and in the 77th percentile in the post, playing heavy minutes. He’s a legit seven-footer who rotates well.

But was it Thibdoeau’s system in Chicago that enabled him to play that well defensively, or his own talents? The answer is a bit of both. But there’s no reason that with the right system, he can’t duplicate that production in Houston. And while the league has shifted towards a smallball approach, having a legit big man is still a huge advantage.

For the Bulls, the pricetag may be too steep. Even if they were to amnesty Carlos Boozer, in 2015 the Bulls would be on the books for a huge amount of money. They may have to let Asik head out to have room for other decisions.

Whether you consider Asik to be overpaid or a value deal, the Rockets have a center. Which would make you think that it’s possible they may be heading away from the plan to acquire Dwight Howard. For now, the Rockets continue to stockpile quality players and prompting discussion.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?