omri casspi 311.
(photo credit: AP)
Israel capped a successful weekend of warm-up games ahead of next month’s
EuroBasket 2011 qualifiers on Sunday, beating Bulgaria 72- 69 in Minsk,
Yotam Halperin led the national team with 22 points and was
selected as the MVP of the four-team tournament, which Israel ended with a solid
Arik Shivek’s team lost 80- 71 in overtime to Belarus on
Friday, before beating Ukraine 73-65 on Saturday and getting the better of the
Bulgarians on Sunday.
Guy Pnini scored 15 points against Bulgaria and
ended the tournament as Israel’s top-scorer, averaging 17.4 points over the
Elishay Kadir was another player who impressed in Belarus,
scoring in double-figures in each game.
Kadir made the most of the
absence of Yaniv Green, Lior Eliyahu, Ido Kozikaro, David Bluthenthal and Omri
Casspi, who have all yet to join the side in training.
Green, Eliyahu and
Bluthenthal will all link-up with the team in Israel during the coming week,
with Casspi to join the national side after the end of the NBA Summer League in
Las Vegas next Sunday.
Israel will play the first of its eight qualifiers
in Group A away at Italy on August 2 and will end its campaign on the road
against Montenegro on August 29.
The national team’s group also includes
Latvia and Finland.
Casspi is currently training with the Sacramento
Kings after going through an intense five-week workout program under trainer Joe
Abunassar in Las Vegas.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger,” said
Casspi, who averaged 10.3 points for the Kings and played in the Rookie
Challenge during the NBA’s All-Star weekend last season.
“I weigh 224
(101 kilograms) now, 15 (7 kg) more pounds from last year. I feel like I
defend better the threes and the fours in the post.”
Kings coach Paul
Westphal hopes the improved fitness of his Israeli forward will help him
“You have to find a way to stay sharp and stay aggressive for
82 games,” Westphal said.
“He knows what the problem is, and now he’s got
to find the solution.”
The Kings play their first summer league game on
Monday against the Detroit Pistons and Casspi is hoping to show plenty
improvement from his play in the competition last year, when he averaged
points and made only 29.5 percent of his shots.
“I’m very excited to wear
the Kings jersey again,” Casspi said. “After last year with the bad
league that I had, I’m excited to play a little bit better.”