Historic First: NBA to Have Two Israeli Players

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Texas is about to have a monopoly on Israeli NBA players, now that small forward Omri Casspi has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Houston Rockets. Casspi will join Gal Mekel, who agreed to terms with the Dallas Mavericks last week – making this the first time in history that the world's leading basketball league has two Israeli players.

Casspi now has a new opportunity to revitalize a floundering career, which began with a promising rookie season with the Sacramento Kings but has gone south during the past three years with the Kings and then the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Casspi signing comes a day after the Rockets won the "Dwight Howard Sweepstakes" which landed them the league's only superstar center.

The two signings are related. In the days leading up to Howard's decision, the Rockets severed ties with veteran small forwards Carlos Delfino and Francisco Garcia. This freed up salary cap space to sign Howard and also created an opening for a back-up small forward like Casspi with outside shooting skills.

Houston provides a great opportunity for Casspi, but not without uncertainties. The Rockets are a youthful, high-energy, high-scoring team that depends on perimeter shooting. All of this fits nicely into Casspi's skillset. The Rockets are also a well coached, successful team with a seemingly bright future now that Howard will be teaming up with superstar shooting guard James Harden.

But it remains to be seen how the Rockets will look now that Howard is aboard. Will they continue to be the hard-charging, super-aggressive squad led by Harden, with Howard accepting the role of a second option on offense? Or will they revert to more measured style of play which would be less conducive to Casspi's success?

Many NBA observers have stated that Casspi would fare far better with a specified role on a disciplined, organized, winning team than he has with teams in disparate straits like the Cavaliers and Kings. This is a chance to find out. 

Omri Casspi.Credit: Seffi Margiso
Gal Mekel.Credit: Sharon Bukov

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