Casspi ready to shine in All-Star Weekend debut

One night after their emotional Jewish Heritage Night win at MadisonSquare Garden on Tuesday night, the Kings continued their winning ways,topping the Pistons 103-97 in Detroit.
Winning back-to-back roadgames for only the second time this season, the victory was the team’s18th of the season, surpassing its win total from last year.
Whilemost of the NBA has the weekend off to celebrate reaching the season’shalfway point, two key components in the Kings’ resurgence boarded aplane to Dallas Thursday to prepare for the 2010 All-Star Weekendfestivities.
Known as the most fun three days of the NBA season,All-Star Weekend brings the best in the game and the league’s brightestrising stars under one roof to battle it out in an East vs Westshowdown.
Headlined by the All-Star Game on Sunday night, theweekend also includes other festivities such as a celebrity game, theRookie Challenge, the three point contest and the fan favorite SlamDunk Contest.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post beforeTuesday night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden, Casspi was thrilledat having been selected to compete in the All-Star weekend, calling itthe greatest moment of his sports career along with being drafted inthe NBA.
“It is great to be recognized. It’s the top of thebasketball world. To be part of the Rookie Challenge, it’s veryexciting. I am honored and it is a dream come true.”
Casspi and teammate Tyreke Evans will represent the Kings on the rookie squad in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge on Friday night.
Alsoknown as the “Rookie/Sophomore Game,” the contest pits the topfirst-year players against the top second-year players in a battle forrespect from the veterans.
Casspi, who enters the breakaveraging 12.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game whileshooting 47% from the field, will team up with fellow rookie sensationsBrandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks and Stephen Curry of the GoldenState Warriors.
In addition to the rookie game, Casspi has alsoaccepted an invitation to battle point guard Rajon Rondo of the BostonCeltics and defending champion Kevin Durant in the “H.O.R.S.E.”competition on Saturday night.
Based on the classic schoolyardgame, the event tests the participant’s shot-making skill. Once anorder is established between the three participants, the first playerwill have 24 seconds to create and make a shot.
The next playerin order will have to match the shot made by the first player. A missedshot following a made shot results in a letter, and players areeliminated after five letters, when the word H-O-R-S-E is spelled.
The players will compete until one man is left standing, and that player will be named the 2010 H.O.R.S.E. champion.
Althoughthe sophomores have beaten the rookies seven times in a row and eightof ten overall since the competition’s inception, the rookies have anexceptionally strong class this year.
What the rookies lack insize with most of their big men being shooting forwards (such asCasspi), they make up with excellent guard play from Evans, Jennings,Curry and Jonny Flynn.
Look for the rookies to make thingsinteresting and give the Sophomores a run for their money, even if theyultimately fall for the eighth straight time.
In terms of theH.O.R.S.E. competition, things will not be easy for Casspi as he has toface a crafty guard and the defending competition champion who hasplayed himself into one of the top players in the NBA this season.
However,Casspi has shown himself to be a player who feeds off of pressure andthrives when in the national spotlight. He also has an array ofspectacular dunks that the other two lack, which could come into play.
Tune in for a great weekend of basketball fun, featuring Israel’s own golden boy!
JosephD. Robbins is currently completing a Master’s in Education at ColumbiaUniversity in New York City. Check out his blog “Robbins Rants” at