He was traded over the summer, just before the lockout that shut down the NBA in October and November. He flirted with playing for an Israeli team, but decided to wait for the NBA season to begin. So far he's finding it hard to acclimatize and can't find his role in his new team's offense. Sometimes he shines, offering a glimpse of his undeniable potential. But Omri Casspi lacks consistency.
The Israeli small forward moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final NBA transaction before the owners locked out the players on July 1. He was traded for J.J. Hickson, who has also had a hard time making his mark at Casspi's old team, the Sacramento Kings.
After a few months at Cleveland, it's time to examine Casspi's half-full glass. The full half is the trust put in him by Cavs coach Byron Scott - Casspi has started every game this season on a team that says it's building a winning roster for the future.
The empty half is that the Cavs have little depth at the small-forward position, which Casspi should have made his own by now. He retains his intensity on defense, but the stats don't look too good: an average of only 7.9 points per game and 32 percent from beyond the arc.
"I'm surprised he hasn't done better, but the fact that he's a regular in the starting five shows the faith placed in him by the coach," says Mary Schmitt Boyer, who covers the team for The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's biggest newspaper. "If Casspi wasn't working so hard to improve his game he would have been demoted to the bench. During games you can occasionally see flashes of what he's capable of, but we still haven't seen him put it all together. What works in his favor is that the team is patient and will wait until he fully develops."
Scott - who as a player had a tremendous work rate and as a coach expects the same of his charges - is the exact opposite of Casspi's coach of the past two years. Under Paul Westphal it seemed the number of minutes Casspi played depended on which side of the bed the coach got out of that morning.
Under Scott things are clearer: Casspi drops to the bench midway through the first quarter only to return before the half ends, plays through the third quarter and sometimes into the final period - an average of 23 minutes a game. Cleveland is ranked 10th in the NBA's Eastern Conference with an 11-17 record.
Scott obviously expects more from Casspi. "The first thing Omri needs to do is to simply play harder," the coach said recently. "He has to move better around the floor and do all the little things that we talked about in recent weeks. He has to go in there and fight - to take more rebounds and stop thinking about his shooting. I think that if he concentrates on being more aggressive on defense, the rest will sort itself out."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now