Omri Casspi hopes for return to Sacramento


Last summer the market for Omri Casspi was soft.  Coming off a strong season in Houston, Casspi was dealt to the New Orleans Hornets and then unceremoniously waived on July 23.  There wasn’t a feeding frenzy for his services.  In fact, at 25-years-old, he cleared waivers despite sporting a league minimum contract.

To say Casspi was on the outside looking in is an understatement.  When the Kings scooped him up, it was as a budget insurance policy.  Sacramento already had Rudy Gay and Derrick Williams on the roster to play the small forward position.  By adding Casspi, the hope was that coach Michael Malone would have the depth to run smaller lineups, including Gay getting substantial minutes at the four.

That’s not the way the season worked out.  Malone rarely used Gay at the power position, despite the veteran spending plenty of time playing in the post for Team USA.  But that didn’t stop Casspi from earning minutes and an integral role with the Kings.

By this point everyone knows the story of the 2014-15 Sacramento Kings.  Three coaches in one season.  Injuries, illness, locus plague – a typical season at Sleep Train Arena.  But the season isn’t a complete loss.

In his second tour of duty in Sacramento, the 26-year-old Israeli has found a role.  And under head coach George Karl he has flourished.

“I’m happy for him because I think he was struggling when I came here, and I think his year has been lifted,” Karl said.  “I think he understands what we’re trying to do probably a little better than some of the guys.  He kind of understands the priority of shots that we want.  His ability to get to the rim has been pretty impressive.”

On the season Casspi is averaging a modest 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds in 21.1 minutes a night.  But under Karl, the 6-foot-9 forward has found a rhythm.

Since April 1, Casspi is averaging 19.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 34 minutes per night.  During his sudden outburst, Casspi is shooting 55.4 percent from the field and 50 percent from long range.  He has developed into the Kings’ most reliable 3-point threat, hitting a career-best 40.2 percent from behind the arc on the season.

“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Casspi said of the change in his game.  “I think him (Karl) giving me the confidence to play.  It’s not a fluke.  It’s me playing out there and doing what I do.  I feel confident.  I think I grew a lot.”

With his strong finish, you would expect Casspi to play coy.  Everything is a negotiation in the NBA and he is finishing the year like a grand finale on the Fourth of July.  But he seems humbled by his experience and he wants nothing more than to return to Sacramento for another run.

“You guys know.  You guys know – a lot,” Casspi said when asked how much he would like to return to the Kings next season.  “I love it here.  I want to come back here.  My agent knows that.  I know that.  I love it here.”

This is a different player than we saw five years ago with the Kings.  He is grounded and appreciative and considers Sacramento his second home.  Casspi has accepted his role as a player and his place in the grand scheme of the NBA.  In this season alone, he has found a way to work with three different coaches and become a valuable player for each of them in completely different ways.

There are very few bright spots to take away from this season, but Omri Casspi is one of them.  He’s a quality locker room guy, a versatile player and in the end, he is deserving of another run with the Kings.  It’s hard to see  Sacramento passing on the chance to keep him around.