At 7.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, Omri Casspi is having a fantastic season. Now you might wonder why we’re saying that when - number one, those are just mediocre numbers compared to the ones being put up by Casspi’s teammates like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green among others.
But after bouncing around the league ( from Sacramento to New Orleans to Minnesota ) last season after being included in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, he’s found his way back to a steady spot in a much more significant ( the most significant ? ) NBA team in the Golden State Warriors.
Thrive Not Just Survive
Not only has Casspi found a permanent home for the season, he has found his way to one of the most loaded rotations in the league. Just imagine playing behind 2014 MVP and 2017 Finals MVP Kevin Durant plus 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala in the small forward position.That’s one tough spot to be in, really. It’s like being a small fish swimming in an ocean with sharks. But Casspi hasn’t just managed to survive, he’s been able to thrive in the circumstances.
“I have great guys around me who take a lot of focus and I’m able to do the stuff that a role player should do,” Casspi said. “I’m enjoying it. I’m loving it.”
It’s not just Casspi who’s enjoying and loving it. His teammates, his coaches and the entire Dub Nation love and enjoy having him on their team ( rather than playing against him ). After all, they know Casspi all to well as the first Israeli-born NBA player spent five seasons in nearby Sacramento and if they didn’t forget, Casspi dropped his career high 36 points on 7-9 shooting from three point land against the Warriors at the Oracle on December 28, 2015.
Casspi signed with the Warriors last summer, inking a veterans minimum deal worth $2.1 for one season. A native of Holon, Israel, Casspi was the Kings’ 1st round pick in 2009, 23rd overall after playing four professional basketball seasons in Israel. He has earned his niche as a scoring punch off the bench, most notably as a three point gunner who made a total of 468 threes in 499 career games prior to coming over to Dub Nation.
But despite his solid NBA resume, life wasn’t going to be easy in Golden State, at least from the point of view of playing time and court production.
First Big Break
It was but expected that Casspi would have trouble breaking into Steve Kerr’s rotation. Given the talent that the Warriors have on their roster, Casspi averaged just 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game on 7.8 minutes per game of playing time during the month of October. But as the season has progressed, Casspi has earned his stripes and minutes from Kerr.
Casspi’s first big break came on November 8 against the Minnesota Timberwolves at home. Kevin Durant was out with a quadriceps muscle injury and Casspi earned his first 20 minute game of the season. He didn’t disappoint. Casspi scored 13 points on 5-7 shooting from the field, including 1-1 from beyond the three point arc.
But not only did Casspi get his first double digit scoring game of the season, he was all over the basketball court for the Warriors. The 8-year veteran also grabbed three rebounds, issues one assists, had two steals and blocked three shots. However, it was Casspi’s five fouls in 20 minutes of action that was ‘singled out’ by Steph Curry after the game.
“You were almost in the hacking club tonight,” Curry jokingly said to Casspi as the two shared the podium during the postgame interviews.
Welcome To The Warriors
A couple of questions earlier, a reporter had asked Casspi why he was perspiring in the during the interview sessions. Casspi said the room was hot but Warriors media chief Raymond Ridder butted in and said:
“He had three blocked shots tonight,” cracked Ridder. “That takes a lot of energy.”
And so Omri Casspi officially became a Golden State Warrior from that game on after taking a playful jab from a star player and star media man after an impressive game. These Warriors are a close knit group and love to express their fondness by making fun of each other. Remember when Zaza Pachulia brought Klay Thompson a framed SF Chronicle newspaper commemorating the game where he outscored Klay 7 to 6?
Zaza Pachulia handed Klay Thompson a framed SF Chronicle at practice today. pic.twitter.com/5gXNVaCVYO— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) May 12, 2017
It’s how it works in Golden State. Going back, Casspi got his baptism of fire. Welcome to the Golden State Warriors.
The First Start
When Kevin Durant missed four games during a five game stretch later that month, Casspi got his first start of the season. It wasn’t just one start. He started each of the four games KD missed during that period. Once again, the 29 year old didn’t disappoint his coach nor his teammates.
Kerr gave Casspi the green light with 25 minutes of playing time per game during those four games. Casspi returned the favor by averaging 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block per game during that stretch. The Warriors went 3-1 over that period, losing only to Sacramento on on November 27 when both Durant and Curry didn’t play.
With Kevin Durant back, Omri Casspi was relegated back to his supporting role on the Warriors’ bench. But by then, he had fought his way to Kerr’s rotation. For the month of November, Casspi’s playing time more than doubled to 16.1 minutes per game. His averages also increased to 6.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game during games played in November.
“Omri’s just a fantastic piece to have,” Kerr said. “I don’t even know what his role is from one night to the next. I guess that’s just what his role is, is to be ready. I never know before the game when I’m going to put him in, but I know when I put him in he’s going to do a great job and keep the action going with his cutting, his energy and his defense. He’s been a tremendous addition.”
Omri Casspi on his improved FG percentage this season with the #Warriors compared his other seasons in NBA, “My job is easy. I told you guys before the game. I’ve just got to put the ball in the hoop.” Casspi credits movement & cutting along w/Warriors overall talent for uptick. pic.twitter.com/wIcKE6Z3Lz— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) December 21, 2017
Casspi is always ready. With the Warriors injury woes in December, Casspi got a couple more starts for the Dubs. He started back to back games on December 11 and 14 against the Portland Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks, respectively. The result? By now you should know the trend.
Playing 27.5 minutes per game, Casspi averaged in a double double with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Against the Mavs, he notched his first double double game of the season with season highs in points ( 17 ) and rebounds ( 11 ). Of course it helped that Casspi’s family was in town for the Jewish Hanukkah and their presence only made Omri play even more inspired against Dallas:
"My family's in town always for Hanukkah, so it's always fun to have family around," he said, adding of his role, "Same mindset, just play hard. I want to stay sharp, stay ready whenever I'm called upon."
But whether it’s been playing in front of his family or filling in for an injured Kevin Durant, Omri Casspi has been ready when Steve Kerr has called his number. That’s a luxury for a champion team like the Warriors. And a problem for everyone else trying to dethrone them.
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