NBA Hoops: Casspi aims to end season on a high

The Israeli rookie is hoping for a strong finish to an outstanding first season in the NBA.

omri casspi 311 (photo credit: AP)
omri casspi 311
(photo credit: AP)
March has been a month to forget for Omri Casspi.
However, with just 14 games and less than four weeks remaining in the regular season, the Israeli rookie is hoping for a strong finish to an outstanding first season in the NBA.
The 21-year-old has averaged 11.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game for the Sacramento Kings this season, but with fatigue finally setting in, his numbers have taken a hit in the last few weeks.
It should come as no surprise that Casspi has struggled to maintain his trademark intensity.
He has missed just three of the Kings’ 68 games so far this season, playing a total of 1,725 minutes, more than the likes of superstars Kevin Garnett, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, to mention a few.
As a result, Casspi was dropped from Sacramento’s starting lineup and has been averaging just 16.8 minutes in eight games so far this month.
The limited playing time has resulted in a diminished contribution, with the forward averaging only 6.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in March, not including the Kings’ game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on March 7 when he was rested and watched from the bench in a suit.
Complicating matters even further is the fact that Casspi has also got more competition for minutes than earlier in the campaign.
The return from injury of Francisco Garcia and the improved play of Donte Green have cost the Israeli playing time, with Sacramento’s trade of Kevin Martin for Houston’s Carl Landry last month also not making it any easier by affecting the way the Kings play.     
However, in the last couple of games, Casspi has regained his scoring touch, hitting 8-of-16 field goals, and was confident when speaking after training on Wednesday that he is back to his old self.
“I’ve been feeling good with myself and with my energy levels for a couple of days now,” said Casspi, who scored 10 points in Tuesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, ending a run of five games scoring in single digits, the longest such streak for the forward this season.
“I’m just happy that I got a chance to play. And when I got on the court I just believed and thought I needed to bring a lot of energy and be aggressive. My shot feels a lot better. I feel things are starting to get back to where they were.”
After leaving Casspi on the bench on March 7, Kings coach Paul Westphal spoke about helping his Israeli star recharge his batteries. But on Wednesday he admitted the forward was back to his old lively self against the Lakers.
“He needs to tighten up his team defense on some of his assignments,” Westphal said.
“He’s got enthusiasm, but sometimes the execution isn’t there. But he brought his energy and enthusiasm and that’s a great starting point.”