Pre-season interview #6: Omri Casspi

Omri Casspi is flat out intense. When he speaks, it is with the directness of a seasoned CEO. He is a hard worker, a fierce competitor and so focused that he seems to have no idea he is playing a game. He is also a team player and a loyal brother and son. Here is the Sacramento Kings small forward Omri Casspi with The Purple Panjandrum.

Omri Casspi working with Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

TPP: How is the ankle?

OC: It’s alright. It’s just a little tweak, a little twist. It’s only an ankle, I’ll be alright. I feel a lot better.

TPP: You and I have talked before about coming off the bench versus being a starter. How do you feel about the announcement, that Donté Greene will begin the season as the starter?

OC: Nothing really changed. Every player on the team knows his role and everybody needs to do what the coach wants them to do. Obviously, everybody needs to follow it and I’m really happy with my role. I did the same thing last year and I’m looking forward to doing the same thing this year. If we are playing better defense and rebounding better and shooting a higher percentage, things should be a lot easier for the team.

TPP: I’ve noticed throughout pre-season that you’ve really been hitting the glass, your assist numbers are way up and those three blocks the other night were amazing. Is it your focus to be more of a jack of all trades this year?

OC: I know myself and I can be a lot better rebounder than four and a half rebounds a game. I felt throughout summer that one of the goals I wanted to achieve was to be one of the best rebounders on the team. Especially now that we have great big men that can rebound and I can help from the three position. Blocks are part of my game now. I play hard defense. I play tough and I can get blocks too.

TPP: Your role coming off the bench almost seems like a more glorious role. The starter is going to be the fourth or fifth option and you should be the first or second option as the primary bench scorer. Is that how you are looking at this?

OC: When I play, I just play. If you have an open shot then shoot it and make it.  If you don’t, then you need swing the ball. If guys are making open shots, then things look a lot better. As our team gets together I’ll feel a lot more comfortable. I’m just trying to do what’s best for the team.

TPP: It seems like everyday after practice, there are guys over there playing shooting games together but you’re usually over here shooting three’s with just you and a coach. Are you just really focused?

OC: I believe that you have to have good habits, and with me coming from overseas and playing in a little bit different court with a different three point line, I need to get a lot of shots up after practice just to get my rhythm back and to get my three point percentage up. I like to focus on the stuff that I’m doing and to get a coach so I can get a lot of shots up.

TPP: I saw via twitter that your brother just got back in town. How is that going?

OC: (with a huge smile) It’s great. It’s just a lot better to have someone at home with you and share some experiences and be with someone, especially my brother. He is my best friend and we have a great time together.

TPP: Have you guys been out and about or just staying around the house?

OC: We’re at home. We’ve been practicing hard and I’m trying to be fresh for the games. Most of the time we rest at home and try to be ready for basketball.

TPP: Are you going to take on a lot of commitments this year when you’re on the road like last year?

Casspi at media day.

OC: I don’t really know. I’m about to start it and I’m about to get to know it. I have experience now and I know the stuff that I need to do and what not to do. It’s an 82 game season and I’m trying to keep myself fresh because basketball is the reason I’m here.

TPP: How does it make you feel to see that flag flying in every stadium you play in every night?

OC: It’s great. Hopefully we’ll see it more and more. The supporters have been great to me.

TPP: Do you feel pressure being the first Israeli born player and being Jewish or is that just part of being Omri Casspi?

OC: I feel great. It is important that people come out to support me for what I’m trying to do out on the court. That’s a great, great feeling.

Throughout training camp, I have had plenty of opportunities to converse with Omri Casspi, but this is our most extensive Q & A. Omri is always accessible and although he is very business-like, he is honest and forthcoming in his answers. I do not think it is a stretch to say that I believe Casspi is disappointed that he is not the Kings starting small forward, but I also believe that he is going to be the best six man he can possibly be.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".