omri casspi sacramento 248.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Omri Casspi's NBA debut on Wednesday was as impressive as it was symbolic.
Ever since he was selected 23rd overall in June's draft, Casspi has been able to grow into the knowledge that he was set to become the first Israeli to play in the NBA and is guaranteed a place of honor in local sports history.
However, achieving something that has eluded every other basketball player in the country's history was never going to be enough for the 21-year-old. Casspi was always determined to be a significant player in the NBA, and on Wednesday he proved he truly belongs with the world's best.
The Sacramento Kings were quite horrendous in their 102-89 loss at the Oklahoma City Thunder, but on a personal level, Casspi's NBA career got off to a dream start. The forward scored 15 points, hitting seven of nine shots, in 19 minutes on court.
Casspi, who also had three rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and one turnover, first entered the court with 6:10 to play in the first quarter, and almost immediately impressed with his shut-down defensive play against Oklahoma superstar Kevin Durant.
The Israeli ended the first half with just two points, but hit jump shot after jump shot in the second half and will have gained a lot of confidence ahead of Friday's second game of the season at the New Orleans Hornets.
"This was a very emotional game," Casspi said. "I've been through a lot to get here and I'm embarking on a long road which I hope will be successful."
Casspi was disappointed with his team's play, but was happy with his own performance in his first outing.
"I got a chance to defend Durant and I did a good job," he said. "I'm pleased I played well, but it is a pity the team did not do as well. We need to find a solution, because we just can't play like this. If we're going to look like this, we're going to lose a lot of games this season.
"At halftime, I told myself that I needed to pick myself up and help this team with a boost, but unfortunately it was too late. I take every game like it's the last one. And we've got to take every game like that because I don't like to lose."
Sacramento coach Paul Westphal was delighted with Casspi's contribution, but expects a lot more from his team.
"Casspi played like he's been playing in practice. He showed why we like him so much," he said.
"We didn't show enough urgency defensively or on the boards at all. And what should have been a little run for them became an avalanche, and we were trying to dig ourselves out the whole game. They soundly thumped us in areas we knew we needed to improve. Ball movement was atrocious. It was pretty much a complete defensive breakdown by us."
Durant had 25 points and 11 rebounds, with Jeff Green adding 24 points in Oklahoma's comfortable victory.
Oklahoma City hit 10 of its first 13 shots and built a double-digit lead in the first six minutes of the game, then never let Sacramento mount a serious comeback.
Nenad Krstic added 20 points and Russell Westbrook had 14 points and a career-high 13 assists for the Thunder.
Kevin Martin made all 14 of his free throw attempts in the first half to keep Sacramento within striking distance, but had just three points after halftime to finish with 27. The NBA's seventh-leading scorer last season missed his last seven shots after hitting a three-pointer to start the second half.
Jason Thompson had 11 points and nine rebounds, with Tyreke Evans, the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft, shooting just 5 for 16 on his way to 10 points, two assists and three turnovers.
AP contributed to this report