Talks between the Celtics and Rockets for a rumored deal that would have sent center Omer Asik to Boston are, in fact, dead, a league source confirmed Thursday.
The Rockets had created a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to trade the disgruntled center so that they could trade the players they got in return by the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The proposed deal between the Celtics and Rockets involved sending forward Brandon Bass, guard Courtney Lee, and a first-round pick to the Rockets for Asik.
Multiple reports, including the Globe, indicated that, according to NBA sources, a deal was “close” Wednesday night and that the teams were haggling over a draft pick.
However, multiple league sources told the Globe it was more likely that Houston general manager Daryl Morey was trying to stir interest in Asik than a deal was in the works.
That point was reiterated again a day later.
“Houston is desperate and Daryl outsmarted himself,” a league source said.
Asik, 27, has been unhappy in Houston since the club acquired Dwight Howard in the summer, and the team has been looking to move him since — and it will still try to do so before Feb. 20.
However, Asik is due $15 million next season as part his back-loaded contract, a large figure that no doubt makes some teams leery of trying to acquire him.
“Fifteen million is too much to absorb in 2014-15,” a league source said regarding the Celtics.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub, said that his team is involved in trade discussions but that no deals were close to completion.
“When you read a name out there, sometimes it’s true and sometimes it’s not,” Ainge said. “I think the reports are embellished, but we are having discussions and seeing what’s out there.’’
Ainge also said that he had talked to the agents for Bass and Lee about the talks. Ainge did not specifically address Asik, but he acknowledged, “The NBA is loaded with quality players, and big guys are much harder to find than small guys . . . Everyone’s looking for big guys that can defend.”
Asik is considered one of the elite interior defenders in the NBA. He had a breakout season in 2012-13 with Houston, averaging 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds, as he started all 82 games.
He has played in just 17 games this season, averaging 4.4 points and 6.8 rebounds.
As for the idea of parting with a draft pick, Ainge said, “They are valuable. They are valuable in trades, as we’ve done before. We’ve thrown draft picks into deals to acquire players, and [we’ve used them] to draft. We just try to value each player and each opportunity and stay opportunistic.”
Ainge also provided an update on Rajon Rondo’s progress as the point guard works his way back from knee surgery.
“We’re taking this week by week,” Ainge said. “Last week he was cleared to play, and we’ll see how much progress he makes over the next week. But he still needs a little bit of strengthening in his right quad. He’s getting close, I don’t see anything happening this month for sure. And we’ll see how next month goes, week by week.”
Coach Brad Stevens and several players spent their offday visiting Boston Children’s Hospital to spread some holiday cheer to patients.
Among other activities, the Celtics sang holiday carols at the event, and Stevens said one of the children told him that “the singing was better than [Boston’s] offense.”
“I told him, ‘I was told I wasn’t a very good singer in high school,’ so that’s probably not a good thing.”
A hospital worker at the event told Lee that he was glad that neither Lee nor Bass were going to be traded to the Rockets. Lee smiled and nodded his head.
Rondo’s No. 9 jersey remains a top seller even though the guard has yet to play a game this season.
The NBA released its top-selling jersey list Thursday, and Rondo’s was listed as the 13th highest seller.
LeBron James’s jersey topped the list, which is based on overall sales from adidas and NBAStore.com from October 2013 through December 2013.
Rounding out the top five were, in order, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Bulls guard Derrick Rose, Thunder swingman Kevin Durant, and Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.