Asik Helps Rockets Roll Past Hornets
HOUSTON - Omer Asik just wants to play basketball.
That’s it. It’s just that simple. Never will you meet a professional athlete less interested in the trappings of fame that typically come with the game. Asik doesn’t just steer clear of the spotlight; he intentionally avoids it whenever possible. In fact, perhaps the only thing more difficult than attempting to score on him down in the low-post is pinning him down for an interview. Heck, when he signed with Houston this summer it required a serious amount of coaxing just to get him to agree to participate in his own introductory press conference.
It’s not that the 26-year-old is aloof or anything of the sort – far from it, in fact. To the contrary, he’s about as down-to-earth and affable a player as one could ever hope to find. It’s just that interviews aren’t really his thing. He’d almost certainly rather run wind sprints than take part in the next Barbara Walters’ special. Media obligations are just not in his comfort zone. That place exists on the basketball court where Asik has wasted little time making himself right at home here in Houston.
The big man from Turkey was at his monolithic best once again Friday night, gobbling up every rebound and defending like a demon while helping to lead the Rockets to a 97-75 trouncing of the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Hornets. Asik finished with a stat line that Rockets fans might as well start getting familiar with now because they’re probably going to see similar variations of it throughout the season. Houston’s man in the middle grabbed 15 rebounds in 28 minutes of work, chipping in six points, two steals and a block as well. His board work was so exemplary, in fact, that it left teammate Chandler Parsons (playfully) fuming after the game.
“I’m getting tired of Omer,” deadpanned Parsons. “He’s taking all my rebounds.”
Then the second-year swingman copped to the truth.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Parsons said of his understated teammate. “He runs the floor so well. He’s huge. He’s a big dude. He works extremely hard, he grabs every single rebound and he’s not bad offensively either. He’s unselfish and can really pass the ball. He’s just a big huge, presence down there defensively.
“Knowing we have him back there helps us a lot, especially when I’m guarding an elite guy like a Kobe or LeBron or Durant – I know Omer is behind me, so it’s just assuring knowing I have a guy like him back there.”
Indeed, Asik’s elite defense provides a massive boost to all of his teammates, and since the reticent Turk isn’t likely to ever boast of his massive impact, it will surely be up to them to sing his praises throughout the year. But for a man who shuns the spotlight as he does, Asik has certainly found a way of seizing it with his early preseason play.
And 1s: Jeremy Lin (9 points, 7 assists) was on the receiving end of a hard foul courtesy of New Orleans’ Robin Lopez, absorbing the kind of blow that’s fairly commonplace during the regular season but less so, for obvious reasons, during the exhibition portion of the schedule.
The collision took place late in the third quarter, as Lin darted in for a layup while Lopez responded with a blow that briefly sent Houston’s point guard to the floor. Originally ruled a flagrant, the violation was changed to a routine personal foul after video review, and after the game Lin dismissed the play as no big deal, saying such encounters can actually be beneficial in their own way.
“It actually didn’t hurt that bad or anything,” he said when asked about the incident after the game. “He just didn’t want me to shoot a layup so he took me down.
“Once you get that first one, it’s like the first of everything. Once I get hard one time, once I get in the air and get chucked a little bit and come down, everything will relax for me mentally, so it was good for me and I’m glad I got a couple free throws – that wasn’t terrible.”
Lastly, Jeremy Lamb (foot) and Marcus Morris (ankle) did not suit up for Friday’s game due to their respective minor injuries.
(on Omer Asik)
He’s a great kid. He works really, really hard. I can’t tell you what a change there was from the end of August ‘til now. We had the big man’s camp and Big O just works so hard, so it’s just easy to be around him and easy to pull for him.
(on his team’s transition attack)
We’re going to have to break as a unit. I’m not sure that we’re going to have a team that’s going to have two-man break. We’ve got to run five guys hard, spreading the floor, getting our first big down in front of the rim, and our wings in the corner. If we get our spacing right I think we can run pretty effectively because Chandler sees the floor well, Delfino sees the floor well, K-Mart sees the floor well. We’ve got Jeremy (Lin), Shaun Livingston, Toney Douglas. Then the nice thing that we really have is Terrence is a good passer, Omer’s a very good passer, Pat can pass – we have a bunch of guys who can move the ball.
(on the hard foul from Robin Lopez)
It actually didn’t hurt that bad or anything. He just didn’t want me to shoot a layup so he took me down.
(good to have your first tough hit of the season to get you going?)
Once you get that first one, it’s like the first of everything. Once I get hard one time, once I get in the air and get chucked a little bit and come down, everything will relax for me mentally, so it was good for me and I’m glad I got a couple free throws – that wasn’t terrible.
(on the team’s defensive pressure on the ball)
That starts with me and I’ve got to get myself to get up earlier and put more pressure on them earlier. I didn’t do a great job of that within the first eight minutes I was in today so I’m sure I’ll hear about that tomorrow.
I thought our defense was very good tonight. We held them down to a pretty low percentage, our help-side was incredible; guys on the nail all night long; guys stunting helping other guys – all the things that coach has been emphasizing in practice.
I’m getting tired of Omer. He’s taking all my rebounds (laughs). He’s been unbelievable. He runs the floor so well. He’s huge. He’s a big dude. He works extremely hard, he grabs every single rebound and he’s not bad offensively either. He’s unselfish and can really pass the ball. He’s just a big huge, presence down there defensively … knowing we have him back there helps us a lot, especially when I’m guarding an elite guy like a Kobe or LeBron or Durant – I know Omer is behind me, so it’s just assuring knowing I have a guy like him back there.
(On the Rockets defensive effort) “In the first half, I didn’t think we did a good job defensively. We had a +7 point advantage (at half time). It wasn’t like we were playing real good defense. Coach was saying that even though we were ahead, we weren’t happy with our defensive performance. We tried to get out and run, but it is hard to run when our opponent is scoring. Our defense was the key to this victory. The defense led to us pushing on the fast break. We are young and we want to run.”
(On his shooting) “Everyday it’s different. Today, I missed a couple shots at the start of the game. I think maybe I rushed some of my shots, and later I started to relax and play my game. We were able to push the ball and that opens up a lot for me to have all those shots.”
(On the Rockets up-tempo play) “I think we’ve doing that all through camp. Jeremy (Lin) is up there pressuring the ball. Me, Chandler, and Pat, we can play aggressively and that’s one thing that we did tonight, especially in the third quarter.”
(On the Rockets offense) “I think that keeping things simple is one thing that we have to do with so many young guys. Our offense, right now, is very simple; get the ball and run and play off of each other, and that develops over time with trust. Right now, it’s looking pretty good on the offensive end.”
(On the Rockets transition offense) “It’s just pre-season right now, but the tone from these two games, it looks like we can be a good transition team. We can all run and the coaches emphasize that every single day in practice. We work on those drills and take the ball up as quickly as possible and that’s what we’ve done the last two games. It’s looking good so far. Quick rebounds, quick outlet, and score in transition with the wings. So far it’s working, but than again it is pre-season, so hopefully this carries over during the season and we can continue this.”
(On the play of Omer Asik) “Omer is a great rebounder and he is a great defensive player he’s been working a lot on his conditioning and it’s paying off. He is able to run the court well and stay out on the court for long periods of time. For us to have success, we are going to need that. We are going to need to find different ways to score.”
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS COACH MONTE WILLIAMS
(On his team’s play) “I expected us to take a step back. We have a lot of young guys, but what I want to prevent is us taking two steps back. We couldn’t really get into our offence. When you’re short handed then you are going to struggle.”
(On the Rockets play) “They played hard and have a strong focus on the defensive end. The executed their offence well with Jeremy Lin and Kevin Martin is Kevin Martin. You know he’s going to score. (Omer) Asik is going to give them a different dimension. They are a different team than last year, but can be a pretty good ball club.”
(On his play) “I was trying to crash the boards early. We let them outwork us and we never got into rhythm either offensively or defensively. There were times when we were cutting our offence off to early. Coach said we took a step backwards.”
(On his status and the teams play) “The is an important week for me to keep building on my conditioning. I will test it more this week. Our guys need to go through games like this. It’s all about growing and we’re going to have our ups and downs.”
(On the game) “It was our first back to back and we have a young team and we need to go through this to get ready.”
(On his play) “I feel pretty good. I need more practice time to learn all the offensive and defensive sets. Our team is playing very hard. We can’t get down on ourselves when we lose games like this.”
Houston registered a 95-75 (+20) win over New Orleans tonight, moving the Rockets to 2-0 on the preseason. The largest margin of victory for the Rockets over the Hornets in the all-time series is actually 20 points (done twice, last 86-66 on 4/13/09).
The Rockets, who limited the Hornets to 27-of-68 (.397) from the floor in the season finale last year at Houston (4/26/12), held New Orleans to just 28-of-83 (.337) from the field in tonight’s contest.
Houston took control of the game tonight by limiting New Orleans to just 10 points in the third quarter. The Rockets actually kept the Hornets to an opponent franchise-low six fourth-quarter points in the last meeting at Toyota Center (4/26/12).
After going 27-of-35 (.771) from the free throw line vs. Oklahoma City (10/10/12), the Rockets went just 13-of-22 (.591) from the stripe tonight.
Kevin Martin, who scored 11 points (3-4 FG) in just 9:23 on the floor vs. Oklahoma City (10/10/12), notched a game-high 17 points (6-11 FG) tonight. Martin is now 9-of-15 (.600) from the field through two games.
Omer Asik posted six points (3-5 FG), 15 rebounds (13 defensive), two steals and one block in 28:06 of action tonight. His career high in a regular season contest is 16 boards at New Jersey (3/17/11).
Jeremy Lin had nine points (5-6 FT) and seven assists in 23:29 on the floor. Lin actually posted seven double-doubles in 25 starts with the New York Knicks in 2011-12.
Chandler Parsons recorded 10 points (5-8 FG) and two steals tonight, while Patrick Patterson had 10 points (5-10 FG) and four boards. Both Parsons and Patterson have reached double-digit scoring in each of their first two appearances this preseason. Parsons netted 10 points (5-9 FG) and Patterson added 10 more (4-9 FG) vs. Oklahoma City (10/10/12).
Donatas Motiejunas, who averaged 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in four starts with the Rockets during the 2012 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, came off the bench for 13 points on 6-of-10 (1-1 3FG) shooting in tonight’s game.
Al-Farouq Aminu topped the Hornets in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting tonight. Aminu recorded 17 points (6-14 FG) and had eight rebounds last year against the Rockets at New Orleans (4/19/12). He also notched 11 points (4-13 FG) and 10 boards in the season finale at Houston (4/26/12).
Robin Lopez came close to a double-double with 11 points (5-9 FG) and eight boards tonight. Lopez owns six career double-doubles in the regular season.
Lance Thomas matched Lopez with eight rebounds to lead the Hornets tonight. New Orleans actually took the battle of the boards by a 44-39 count.
Greivis Vasquez, who came into this game averaging seven assists this preseason, led the Hornets with five helpers tonight.