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One Step Closer

Omer Asik practices, takes next step toward return from injury

HOUSTON - Omer Asik returned to the Rockets’ practice floor Thursday afternoon, taking the next step toward his eventual return to game action.

Today’s workout marked the first time Asik has been able to participate in full contact drills since sustaining a thigh injury in early December that produced persistent swelling above his knee. The ailment has caused the 27-year-old center to miss Houston’s last 31 games, but his presence and performance in today’s practice produced hope that a return to game action could be on the horizon, provided there are no setbacks.

“I felt really good to be back on the court and to be back with the team” Asik said following today’s workout. “It’s close to 100 percent. I feel much better. Hopefully I’ll get a little more practice and get back on the court.

“It’s just day-to-day. Hopefully I’ll have full practice tomorrow and if I feel good, I’ll go from there.”

Neither Asik nor Houston head coach Kevin McHale would specify a date for when the fourth-year forward would be ready to receive playing time in an actual game. Instead, both pointed toward the next step: making sure the Turkish national is able to fully take part in Friday’s practice which is expected to be more intense than was today’s relatively light workout. Assuming Asik is able to make it through that session in good shape, McHale said he expects the big man will find himself in a game “sooner than later.”

Not surprisingly, his teammates are looking forward to that moment.

“It’s going to help our team out a lot,” said James Harden. “He was our starting center last year, he was top-3 in rebounding and defensively he’s one of the best bigs out there.

“He’s very good. People forget about how good he is just because he’s been out but once he gets back he’s going to help our team get to another level.”

UPDATE: Asik was a full participant in Friday's practice as well, prompting McHale to say that he expects the 27-year-old to be available for the Rockets' Saturday night matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I would think Omer is going to play tomorrow," he said. "Granted, we’ll see how he feels. This is the most he’s done, and if his knee swells up again he won’t play tomorrow night. But if he can come through tonight and tomorrow’s shootaround then I think he’ll play."