New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik burst out in Manila after two quiet games for the Turkish National Team in Olympic Qualifying for 19 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. Unfortunately it was not enough as Turkey fell to a far superior French side 75-63. France responded well after falling into a 13-3 hole early on and did not trail after seizing the lead.
For the Pelicans, it was good to see Asik perform well against a legitimate front line of NBA players. France played Denver Nuggets center Joffrey Lauvergne and newly acquired Utah Jazz forward Boris Diaw much of the contest alongside Nicolas Batum, Tony Parker, and Nando De Colo. Asik was nimble on defense, but often functioned as the sole obstacle for the French team who routinely got into the lane at will. The role was no doubt familiar to the Pelicans center, hopefully one that will be a thing of the past with the new acquisitions of defensive minded players Solomon Hill, E'Twaun Moore, and Langston Galloway.
Nearly every single positive highlight for Turkey on the game features Asik, including a pair of dunks, a nifty layup, and a gorgeous pass out of the short roll to set up Semih Erden for a dunk.
Two good things come out of this performance today. Omer Asik looked good playing basketball; far lighter on his feet than he did last year. He appears to be 100% healthy, especially considering the 27 minutes he played today. (Only Ali Muhammad logged more minutes for either side today. 27 minutes is a lot in an international competition with 10 minute quarters.)
More importantly, this loss eliminates Turkey from possible Olympic contention. The winner of the Manila Qualifying Tournament (Canada and France play tomorrow at 8:00 AM central on ESPN3) will earn a bid to Rio. Similar tournaments are ongoing for the remaining qualifying spots in Turin, Italy and Belgrade, Serbia.
Last season Asik came into training camp hobbled with an injury suffered playing internationally and then suffered another injury, a calf strain, during preseason play. He struggled out of the gate and took months to regain his form, at which point the season was already all but over.