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News And Notes: December 19, 2013

Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik getting closer to return to game action

HOUSTON - Nearly one week after suffering a back injury that forced him to miss each of his team’s last two games, Jeremy Lin returned to the Rockets’ practice court Thursday afternoon, taking the next step toward readying himself for a return to game action.

The full-contact workout was Lin’s first since sustaining the injury during the first half of last Friday’s tilt with the Golden State Warriors. The 25-year-old participated without restrictions, but made clear afterward that additional steps likely must be made before he is again able to suit up beneath the bright lights.

“I’m definitely not where I want to be in terms of getting back to where I was before,” Lin said following Thursday’s practice session. “I didn’t move or sweat for four days just trying to let the back heal so it’s going to take a little time.

“Today was the first time (since the injury) I did anything really basketball-wise, so we’ll see how it feels tomorrow and then just build from there.”

Regardless of whether or not Lin is able to play this weekend when Houston travels to Indiana and Detroit for a brief but brutal back-to-back, he’s doubtless anxious to put these past few weeks behind him. The Rockets’ point guard had only recently returned from a knee injury that forced him to miss six games before being forced to the sidelines again due to this latest ailment. And the team certainly misses the scoring and playmaking punch he delivers off the bench – Lin has averaged more than 14 points and four assists per game so far this season.

Along those same lines, the Rockets are also eager to see Omer Asik back on the court again. Houston’s back-up big man has been the subject of no shortage of trade rumors and speculation in recent weeks, all of which has taken place while he’s attempted to recover from a thigh contusion that has sidelined him for the past seven games. Houston Head Coach Kevin McHale addressed Asik’s status following practice, indicating that the 27-year-old center may be nearing a return to full health.

“I know (Rockets General Manager) Daryl (Morey) was working the phones and talking to people and stuff and sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” said McHale. “I think Omer understands that. I’m looking forward to getting Omer healthy, I’m looking forward to getting Jeremy healthy, I’m looking forward to getting our team healthy and getting us together as a group and putting some games under our belt.

“When (Omer is) ready to play, we’re going to play him. I was hoping (Asik would be ready) a couple days ago but it seems like when he amps it up and does two or three days in a row on the floor he starts getting some stiffness in there so we kind of have to figure out that.

“He’s seeing another doctor today but I think we’re going to get over the hump on that and then we’ll get him back in the rotation. He’s a big part of what we do and he can be a huge part of our success. There’s a lot of nights where that second big body out there playing with Dwight really gives you an advantage and we need that.”

Dwight Howard echoed his head coach's sentiment, welcoming Asik’s return with open arms while emphasizing the kind of mindset that’s a must for any team harboring championship aspirations.

“Like we said at the beginning of the year, it’s going to take a total team effort for us to win a championship," Howard said. "I know he’s had a tough time, but the only thing we can do as a team is continue to lift him up and to just try to help him understand that he’s a big part of this team. I know he might not feel that way, but he is. We’re going to need him late in the season and we need him now just to get healthy and we want him to play.

“We understand all the things he’s had to deal with … That can be tough. But we all have to make sacrifices to win and he has to be willing to make a sacrifice.”