NBA / Forecast for Casspi: Cloudy

'As long as LeBron James and Kobi Bryant aren't playing in Cleveland, I'm not worried,' says Israeli small forward fighting for a roster spot with the Cavaliers.

Elad Zeevi
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Elad Zeevi

Omri Casspi has become used to opening the NBA season from a starting point where he has not been before. As his fourth season, which opens tomorrow, approaches, the feeling is he doesn't really have a feel about how it is going to look.

"I wish I had a better idea," says Mary Schmitt Boyer, who covers the Cavs for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I'm sure he will not get cut, but I don't know what their plans are for him. At the start of the preseason, I thought he looked much better," she wrote Haaretz via Facebook. "But Byron Scott has done so much experimenting with his rotations, I just can't tell where he stands. He's not in line to start. That will be either Alonzo Gee or C.J. Miles. But I'm afraid they're going to have to play a couple games before we know for sure."

Casspi and the Cavs' starting five is a delicate matter. Last season he started 35 games, the entire first half of the season. But he didn't earn Scott's trust.

He also had a nagging knee injury, and in the end Casspi lost his starting spot to Gee - not exactly a league standout. He spent the remainder of the season at the end of the bench. Casspi recently said at an open day with the press that he spent a lot of time last season mired in the mud. "I lost confidence and I wasn't me, but I learned a lot about the game and myself last season," he said.

Someone looking for a reason to be optimistic can find solace in Casspi's performance this summer with the Israeli national basketball team. Coach Scott, it turns out, closely followed Casspi, who shot 65 percent from the field with Israel. Scott reportedly told Casspi that it was fun to see the small forward play the way he did, and that he should keep up the good work in Cleveland.

The coach added that he expected Casspi to demonstrate a better understanding of what the team is trying to do on offense and defense. Scott said he knows Casspi is a much better player than the one he saw last season, and expects him to play much better this campaign.

The question is how big a chance does Scott intend to give Casspi. Cleveland signed Miles, another small forward, over the summer.

"It's not that I didn't expect something like that to happen," Casspi told Haaretz this week. "I didn't expect to be alone. As long as LeBron James and Kobi Bryant aren't playing in Cleveland, I'm not worried. It will be good competition. I hope to demonstrate my ability."

It's hard to figure out how much playing time Casspi will get from Scott based on the preseason. They are not a good indicator of the regular season, but in Casspi's case they reflect in particular a great deal of uncertainty.

"The Cavs have until Oct. 31 to decide if they want to extend Casspi's rookie contract," says Schmitt Boyer. "I have no feeling on this at all yet. My gut tells me they may wait to see how he plays this year, but that's just a hunch."

She adds: "I know this is all quite vague. Maybe I'll have a better idea next week after a couple more games "

Omri Casspi, right, and Indiana Pacers Gerald Green.Credit: AP