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Large contracts being thrown at NBA centers explain Howard drama. Well, sort of.


When Omer Asik is getting $25 million, you know the NBA is desperate for big men.

Nothing against Asik, a serviceable center who left the Bulls in free agency to sign a four-year contract with the Rockets. Then again, we’re talking about a guy who sports career averages of 2.9 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

But Asik is a true 7-footer, a hustling post player with an upside. And in today’s market, that really seems to count for a lot.

Nor is Asik the lone big man to have hit the jackpot this summer. Roy Hibbert (Pacers), Chris Kaman (Mavericks), JaVale McGee (Nuggets), and Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries ( Nets) all received large and lengthy contracts. Even old standbys such as Kevin Garnett (Celtics) and Tim Duncan (Spurs) pocketed some serious cash – despite the fact each is viewed as a little past his prime. Or at least, no longer a legitimate reason to watch pro basketball in prime time.

Of the list above, both Hibbert and Lopez received the maximum contract allowed under NBA rules. Remember, we’re talking about two guys who have one appearance in the All-Star Game between them. That honor belongs to Hibbert, who made the East squad as a reserve this past season.

So if Hibbert and Lopez are max players … well, it’s easy to understand all the fuss being made over Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.

Howard and Bynum are the top two centers in the game, and have been the centerpieces of a reported trade involving Howard’s Magic and Bynum’s Lakers for at least a week. According to multiple reports, the Magic would send Howard to the Lakers, Bynum to the Cavaliers, and a fistful of dollars (or more specifically, draft picks and players) to the Magic.

Of course, these rumors come on the heels of a reported deal that would’ve sent Howard (and others) to the Nets – and return no less than Lopez (and others) to the Magic.

That’s not all.

Dating back to the trading deadline in March, Howard has supposedly drawn serious interest from the Nets, Rockets, Lakers, Mavericks and several others. If they ever put a team on the moon, you can bet there’d be reports Howard is headed there, too.

This for a guy who is coming off back surgery and has spent the past two years as a major headache to his current organization. On top of that, Howard and agent Dan Fegan have made it clear that Howard will not sign with any team, regardless of where he lands, and will enter free agency in 2013.

Bynum’s agent, David Lee, implied basically the same.

But Howard averaged 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds this past season, Bynum had 18.7 and 11.8, respectively. Both are capable of surpassing those numbers (and then some) on any given night. So it’s no surprise everyone wants them – and will even engage in crazy talk if it means potentially landing them.

It also explains why teams such as the Trail Blazers went gaga over Hibbert, and the Bobcats did the same over Lopez. The Blazers forced the Pacers to match an offer for Hibbert, after the Pacers figured the cost of not having their center would exceed the price of keeping him. And the Nets were forced to call off the reported Lopez deal with the Magic after it appeared the Bobcats were set to sign him away in free agency.

As for Asik, well, there really is no reasonable explanation for the deal he received from the Rockets. He’s not exactly on the level Howard or Bynum, or even McGee or Kaman, for that matter. But Asik is 7-0, and in today’s NBA, that’s clearly a darn good start.