As past traits rise to the surface, can Casspi get his way?

Sinai Says: As dedicated as he is, he is even more impatient, and may he can’t get away in NBA with the same things he managed to in Israel.

By
April 6, 2011 07:04
4 minute read.
Omri Casspi

Casspi 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Those familiar with Omri Casspi’s career could not have been too surprised when the 22-year-old Israeli forward came out with a bitter column concerning his lack of playing time for the Sacramento Kings this season.

Few players work on their game as hard as Casspi does, and his devotion to improving every aspect of his play is the main reason why he has achieved so much more than anyone had predicted, including becoming the first Israeli to play in the NBA.

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However, as dedicated as he is, he is even more impatient, and he may soon discover that in the NBA he can’t get away with the same things he managed to in Israel.

Throughout the early years of Casspi’s career, his father Shimon scathingly attacked Maccabi Tel Aviv on numerous occasions, claiming that his son was not being given the credit he deserved.

Omri made sure to keep a low profile, but while he didn’t speak out against Maccabi himself, he never did anything to indicate that he didn’t agree with his father’s sentiment.

At the end of the 2007/08 season, Casspi claimed that he was a free agent since he wasn’t among the top eight in minutes played at Maccabi, as required by a unique clause in his contract, which Tel Aviv had never given to a player before, and haven't since.

Casspi ended up playing for Maccabi in the 2008/09 campaign before realizing his dream of being selected in the first round of the NBA draft.



But while he has upgraded his game beyond recognition during his time in the US, his conduct has remained as immature as ever.

After starting 19 games in a row, Casspi has completely fallen out of favor with capricious Kings coach Paul Westphal in recent weeks, resulting in Monday’s column published on Israeli sports website ONE.

In it, he effectively demanded to be allowed to move to another franchise despite being under contract with the team through next season, with Sacramento also holding a team option on him for the 2012/13 season.

“It’s not easy for me to sit on the bench, which has happened to me quite a bit in Sacramento’s last few games,” Casspi wrote. “I’m a player who lives the game, and as soon as you take away the thing I love the most in the world – playing basketball – it is hard for me.”

In four of Sacramento’s seven games prior to Tuesday night’s encounter with the Houston Rockets, Casspi didn’t see a single second of action, playing a mere total of 27 minutes.

“The situation in Sacramento is not like it used to be in the past.

Coach Paul Westphal is experimenting and trying different things and I’m certainly not in his plans,” Casspi said. “We have six more games until the end of the season, and although I won’t say that I’m counting the seconds, it is clear to me that I will have to make some decisions at the end of the year.”

After an impressive rookie season in which Casspi started in 40 games, averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game, the Israeli expected to make further progress in 2010/11.

However, if anything, he has gone backwards.

Through 69 games this season, Casspi is averaging 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game, but in the past nine contests, he has only averaged 6.4 minutes, not playing in four of them due to Westphal’s decision.

“I know that there are many teams, including some playoff teams, that want me ahead of next season,” Casspi wrote. “I hope to find myself in a team that appreciates me as a player and a person, a team that plays like a team.”

Casspi went on to write that he loves everyone in Sacramento (apart from the coach) and still doesn’t know if he will definitely not be continuing with the Kings next season.

He also admitted that it would be “egotistical” to say that he wants to leave the team that gave him his first chance in the NBA, before writing that “there are other teams which suit me better and since I have an excellent relationship with the players and the staff, I hope that they appreciate me enough to let me leave for a place where I can play basketball.”

Just last week, Westphal praised Casspi for handling the situation professionally, and the Israeli said that as a player in the NBA you have to make sure to “be the professional you need to be and be ready when it’s time to go out and play.”

But this week, Casspi reverted back to his old ways and gave the NBA a peek of what Israeli basketball fans have long known.

He may well live to regret it.

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