Sinai Says: Casspi's catch-22

The star forward's historic achievement also came with an agonizing dilemma.

Allon sinai 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Allon sinai 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel coach Tzvika Sherf would love to have Omri Casspi at his disposal during September's EuroBasket tournament. Unfortunately, Israeli basketball's best interests demand Sherf announces as soon as possible that the star forward will not be playing for the national team this summer. Casspi is set to become the first Israeli to play in the NBA after being selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 23rd pick of last month's NBA draft. But along with the historic achievement also came an agonizing dilemma. The 21-year-old has played for the different national teams for the past seven years and is aching to take part in his first senior European Championships this year. However, his new responsibilities as an NBA player have left him with no real option but to wait at least two more years before he finally competes at the EuroBasket tournament. The first obstacle facing Casspi is the scheduling headache caused by the NBA Rookie Transition Camp, to be held between August 11 and 15. His Israel teammates began training on Monday, but he will not be able to join them until just a couple of weeks before the team plays its EuroBasket opener. Far more significant is the obligation Casspi has to himself and to Israeli basketball as a whole to make the very most of his rookie season in the NBA. Casspi knows he is far from being a complete player and he is looking forward to working on his game in the coming months and smoothing his transition to the NBA. The first impression he makes will be very important to both his career and to the future prospects of his fellow countrymen to play in the best basketball league in the world. While an unsuccessful rookie season could see him make an early return to Europe and hurt the chances of other Israelis to make the switch in the coming years, a good season might ensure he remains an NBA player for many years to come and bring Israeli basketball much-welcomed attention, which will ultimately result in more Israelis in the league. Casspi has hinted time and again in the past weeks that he will have to make a hard decision, but he has failed to utter what he truly feels. Despite the fact that both he and Sherf know he will eventually have no real choice but to announce he will not play in the European Championships, the issue has dragged on and is overshadowing Israel's preparations for the tournament in Poland. Naturally, Israel would benefit from Casspi's presence in the championships, but only if his head will be in Poznan rather than Sacramento. The national team has a well-balanced roster even without Casspi and the longer it takes to reach the all but obvious decision, the more the side will suffer. Sherf wants Casspi on his team and the forward is desperate to play for Israel. However, there is only going to be one outcome to this predicament and everyone involved will be best served if Sherf takes it upon himself to put Casspi out of his misery and allow the rest of the team to focus on the upcoming championships.