It’s not even Halloween and the New Orleans Pelicans are already dealing with leftover Turkey.
I feel for Omer Asik, I really do. I spent 6+ years living in South East Asia and traveled that region regularly eating from some of the most questionable set ups imaginable because I don’t really respect my body — so I know a thing or twenty-seven about crazy bacterial infections. I’ve been in that begging-for-death state, lying on a tiled bathroom floor, drain in the middle, with the shower just running on me as I Merlion statued from both ends for days while my ex-girlfriend force fed me orange jello and charcoal.
Sometimes when food borne parasites invaded, it took me months to feel normal again, which is why I wasn’t really surprised when Dell Demps said there was no time frame for Omer’s return on media day. This was then later echoed by a surprise appearance at the podium where Asik insinuated that basketball was the furthest thing from his mind — his focus was just getting healthy.
Since the illness struck him over the last All-Star break, the media and fan base were left in the dark over what he was actually dealing with. This wasn’t a Sean Payton, “Omer’s got a belly.” New Orleans management truly seemed to not know what was wrong with Asik for an extended period of time, despite a multitude of tests.
It’s still unclear if he is suffering from Crohn’s disease, but he is being treated by the Mayo Clinic for it — if I were Omer I’d see what kind of stuff the O.J. Mayo clinic had to offer me under the counter. Dell spit out an exact scientific term for the parasite Asik has been affected by, but if I could read my own handwriting from the notes I took on media day it surely wouldn’t be spelled right. Luckily, the injury report for the preseason opener against Chicago was oddly specific: Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Living in the CBD, I’ve crossed paths with Omer occasionally, and at media day he looked a whole lot better than the previous few times I had seen him. He had put some weight back on, was smiling and he legitimately seemed happy for the first time in months — he no longer looked like Judge Reinhold after makeup in a remake of Steven King’s Thinner. This is all encouraging news — especially for my favorite New Orleans cults, “The Omer Asik Fan Club.”
…………That being said, the basketball side doesn’t look so rosy. Had Omer Asik never contracted this bacterial infection, I would still be pretty sure that he’d never see a meaningful NBA minute again. After infection, I think we can just edit out meaningful and leave it at, “NBA minute.”
With the league trending small and big men needing to have some semblance of a jumper, Asik is becoming a dodo bird. He could gobble up rebounds, was once a solid defender and is an acceptable passer out of the post, but his inability to dribble, catch or shoot a basketball is problematic to say the least.
More unsettling perhaps is that while Asik may not have been able hold down a meal during the 2nd half of last season, his contract has been eating for two, or maybe even a family of four, into the Pelicans’ limited cap space and will continue to for some time.
With his skill set driving him out of the league, his inflated contract and his health issues, the Pelicans’ front office and fan base are in that awkward position of hoping Asik is declared physically unable to play basketball again — allowing the team to use the Chris Bosh provision. (It’s not actually the name, just the most recent big name player to have dealt with this situation.)
Longtime LeBron James’ stalker and ESPN analyst, Brian Windhorst, broke down how that worked for the Heat and Chris Bosh following his failed physical:
If he is declared disabled by an independent doctor, the Heat would be able to remove his salary from their books starting next season. Miami would still have to pay Bosh the money, though a portion would be covered by insurance. If the team just released Bosh, it would be unable to get full cap relief.
We can’t speak for Omer, but with his focus on getting healthy and happy again, and him stating that basketball wasn’t even in his mind, this could be the best thing for everyone. He’d get all of his money, insurance would save Tom Benson from paying most of the bill, and Dell Demps would have some extra space to work with.
Seeing as he wasn’t stretched this past offseason — when the team was scrambling for some extra cap space to build around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins without going over the hard cap — you’d think that this solution was a looming possibility. Until then, he’ll remain Dell Demps’ albatross, so let’s send him off with a chunk of lyrics from an Iron Maiden classic:
The albatross begins with its vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung.
And the curse goes on and on at sea.
And the curse goes on and on for them and me.
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