Basketball: Casspi stamps his mark on the NBA with a double-double

Basketball Casspi stamp

By JEREMY LAST
November 10, 2009 05:58
3 minute read.

 
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Sacramento Kings coach Paul Westphal admitted he's been surprised by Israeli rookie Omri Casspi's improvement after playing only six games in the NBA. The 21-year-old put in another standout performance on Sunday evening, notching a double-double in the Kings' 120-107 win over the Golden State Warriors. That Casspi scored 12 points was no surprise for those who have been following his fledging professional career in the US where he has already scored in double figures three times. However, his ten rebounds against the Warriors, having not grabbed more than four in any of the previous five games, illustrated how Casspi is quickly becoming a significant player in a Sacramento franchise which has improved to 3-4 after losing its first three games of the season. "He's been hiding that skill from us," Westphal said of Casspi's rebounding. The coach showed his confidence in the youngster by playing him for 36 minutes, the most time he has had on court so far this season. Casspi told the Sacramento Bee he had found it difficult to get rebounds when he first started playing in the NBA and is happy with his improvement. "I didn't know how to get those rebounds," the former Maccabi Tel Aviv player said. "I didn't know where to find the ball. In Europe, I did it very well. It's a different game [in the NBA]. The ball bounces different, and there's a lot bigger guys. I just need to find a way to get those rebounds." Casspi said he is still looking to improve his game, with rebounding a particular focus. "I think I can average five, six a game," he said. "I need to focus on that. So it's just the beginning. I'm making those adjustments." One side of his game Casspi knows he must still improve on is his free-throw shooting. On Sunday he missed all four attempts, taking his record to just two of 12 on the season. All of the Israeli's points came from three-pointers. In fact, Casspi only attempted three-point shots, scoring on four out of six. Coming off a mild ankle injury which ruled him out of the previous game at the Utah Jazz, Casspi once again illustrated his focus and diligence on Sunday. And as usual, he was eager to use post-game interviews to shift the focus onto his teammates and the camaraderie that has been created in the new Kings' squad. "Everyone feels like they are in the game and feels like they are able to get the open ball. It's great and we have great shooters and talent from the team from the beginning. When everyone feels in the game, we step up our defense and we feel great," Casspi said. "Hopefully we are going to keep this up as a team and we are going to keep getting more wins because we have games that we need to win. We have a good team." Westphal was delighted with his team's effort in recent games, especially considering star guard Kevin Martin has been ruled out for a minimum of eight weeks with a wrist injury. "I was worried about that game [against Golden State]. Our guys showed me a lot by a quick turnaround and they didn't give in to thinking they were good because we won a game in Utah," the coach said. "I'm very proud of these guys." After claiming three wins in four games, the Kings are now ranked eighth in the Western Conference, heading for a playoff place for the first time since 2006. Rookie Tyreke Evans scored 18 of his 23 points in the second quarter on Sunday as the Kings won back-to-back games for the first time in nearly a year. Evans was coming off his best game of the year, scoring a career-high 32 points and getting seven assists in Saturday's win in Utah. The Kings haven't had a rookie score more than a combined 50 points in consecutive games since Walt Williams accomplished the feat in February 1993. Beno Udrih added 20 points and six assists for the Kings, who last won consecutive games on November 7 and November 9, 2008. Sacramento held a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter before Evans took over. The fourth-pick in the draft helped the Kings build an 11-point halftime lead using an array of moves. The Kings extended their advantage to 96-77 after three quarters as Udrih had 10 points in the period. The quarter ended with Greene lobbing an inbounds pass to Thompson for a dunk at the buzzer. AP contributed to this report.

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