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Bulls face big decision about free-agent center Omer Asik

The Bulls must decide whether match three-year $25 millioffer backup center Omer Asik received from Rockets. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Bulls must decide whether to match the three-year, $25 million offer backup center Omer Asik received from the Rockets. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: August 13, 2012 2:01PM

A decision about whether to match the Houston Rockets’ three-year, $25 million offer for backup center Omer Asik looms over the Bulls, casting all others in temporary shadow.

The structure of the offer further complicates the decision. The final season calls for Asik to be paid about $15 million, which would be hard for any team to swallow, especially one that will be paying Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah twice that amount for the 2014-15 season.

The Bulls are expected to match the offer for Asik, according to an NBA source, even if public opinion seems to favor letting Asik miss his next two free throws while wearing a Rockets uniform. The money spent on Asik could be used to
acquire a player to help shoulder the scoring burden early next season, when Rose (knee) and perhaps even Luol Deng (wrist) are recovering from surgery.

After all, how valuable can a player who only averages 3.1 points be?

Don’t count NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy among the chorus. The former New York Knicks and Rockets coach said he thinks Asik is worth the investment, especially to the Bulls.

‘‘You can either focus on a player’s weaknesses or strengths,’’ Van Gundy said. ‘‘Unfortunately, if a guy has limitations offensively, some guys want to stamp him as ineffective. Asik is a very effective player. He needs to make improvements offensively to be an every-day starter in this league, there’s no question about that.

‘‘But the [offer sheet] he signed is reasonable for a player of his stature the way the NBA is. I’m
really interested to see what the Bulls decide to do. They’re going to miss him if they decide not to match. It’s hard to find someone that young and capable.’’

Asik missed two free throws in the final seconds of Game 6 to seal the Philadephia 76ers’ series-clinching victory against the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. He had played his best game of the season to that point, though. With Noah unable to play because of a twisted ankle, Asik had 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 39 minutes. His plus-minus was plus-10.

Noah still hasn’t recovered from his ankle injury, which makes Asik that much more valuable to the Bulls.

‘‘Their frontcourt was their greatest strength, besides Rose,’’ Van Gundy said , referring to Noah, Asik, Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer. ‘‘Those four guys all have some terrific strengths. It’s the right move if they decide to match.’’

Even with Asik, next season will be a challenge for the Bulls. Rose and their depth have been their greatest assets, but Rose is facing a long rehab and their depth likely will be diminished.

The Bulls have until Sunday to pick up sharpshooter Kyle Korver’s $5 million option. They also have been entertaining sign-and-trade possibilities for him.

‘‘You don’t know what [rookie Marquis] Teague is or what [second-year guard] Jimmy Butler is or whether they are going to retain Korver,’’ Van Gundy said. ‘‘To judge the roster right now is premature. But if their depth is compromised, Rose is not back until February and it takes him another month to get reacclimated, it’s going to be hard. Making the playoffs would be a great accomplishment.’’

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