|Omer Asik could be headed to Houston. (Getty Images)|
The New York Post reports and ESPN confirms that the Chicago Bulls are set to sign veteran free agent center Nazr Mohammed. The implication is that Mohammed's signing means the Bulls will not match the offer sheet for restricted free agent Omer Asik, a three-year, $25 million "poison pill" offer structured the same way guard Jeremy Lin's was.
Mohammed played quality but limited minutes for the Thunder the past two seasons, as Cole Aldrich's emergence limited his role for Oklahoma City. Mohammed, 34, provides the Bulls with a capable and experienced defender to slide onto a suddenly very different Bulls bench team.
The Rockets have signed Asik to a three-year $25 million offer sheet with a "poison pill" in the last year of the contract totaling $14.8 million in a cap hit. The cap structure for the Rockets averages the deal over the three years while retaining the actual salary structure.
Whether this deal will affect Houston's pursuit of Dwight Howard is unknown but multiple reports have indicated the Rockets intend to go forward with their pursuit of the All-Star center with Asik as the defensive presence off the bench he was for the Bulls. That's a lot of coin for a reserve.
The Bulls, meanwhile, will have an almost entirely new bench next season. C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, and Asik are gone. Whether the new bench unit can keep up the production the old one did is a big task and a huge question mark. Free agent signing Kirk Hinrich will man the starting role most likely until Derrick Rose returns from the ACL injury he suffered in last year's playoffs.
The decision comes as the kind that can ge defended or criticized pretty easily. It's not difficult to argue that Asik's lack of an offensive game in any capacity limits his warranting a contract offer of that magnitude, and keeping flexibility open for the future is essential to remaining in title contention. On the other hand, this screams of a purely financial move, and yet another initiative by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf to avoid paying the luxury tax, despite having the most profitable team in the league according to some measures.
Either way, things will not be the same for the Bulls this year, and it's difficult to argue in an ever-expanding arms race across the Eastern Conference that the Bulls have taken a step forward, or even held steady.