After seven years in the NBA, Omri Casspi is clearly a veteran in the world’s best basketball league. How veteran? Enough to buy the Sacramento Kings’ rookies their backpacks for the new season, a time-honored tradition that humiliates the new guys.
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Skal Labissiere got the stars of “Frozen,” Malachi Richardson got “Minions,” and Georgios Papagiannis got “Finding Dory.” Casspi, who’s starting his fifth year with the Kings – more than anyone not named DeMarcus Cousins – paid for them all.
He says he had a ball picking them out. “As promised. Nice gift for my rookies. They don’t seem very happy lol,” he tweeted alongside a picture of the three of them with their kindergarten backpacks – and not smiling.
As to whether Casspi has his own reasons to be happy, it’s complicated. He’s coming back after his best season in the NBA; he set personal records for minutes played, scoring, rebounds and two- and three-point percentages.
Still, it wasn’t the best timing for his best season, as strange as that may sound. In the summer of 2015 he signed a two-year, $5.8 million contract, peanuts compared with the salary-cap limits.
If he had been a free agent last summer, he would have easily garnered $8 million a year – similar to what Garrett Temple got from the Kings ($24 million over three years). The Baton Rouge-born guard arrived from Washington and fell short of Casspi in just about every statistic.
If we ignore Golden State and Steph Curry’s $11 million contract, Sacramento got one of the best values for money in the NBA. Casspi has proved he can provide the numbers of someone making three times his salary.
The Israeli’s problem, of course, is that you’re only as good as your last season. During his last season, he benefited from a style of play just right for him and a coach who believed in him, George Karl, who has been fired and replaced by Dave Joerger.
So in his eighth season in the league, Casspi will once again find himself fighting for playing time. He may no longer have to prove that he belongs, but he’ll have to prove he should stay there. At 28, the time has come for him to fight for what will probably be the biggest contract of his career.
The problem is that at Sacramento, one of the NBA’s least predictable teams, he’ll have to fight for playing time under a new coach with a new system – with competitors both in the starting five and another three or four off the bench. Consistency will have to be his advantage. Last year he was the team’s best three-point shooter.
He married over the summer and had no obligations to the Israeli national team, so he returned right away to training. “I had some champagne, but a few weeks after the wedding, I got back into my routine,” Casspi told the Sacramento Bee at the beginning of the season.
“I go to Florida every July, August and September and work with my coach, David Thorpe. I become totally focused, and shut everything down. No phones. Just me and him, working for hours every day, working on my jump shot, my ball handling, dribbling, dribbling, dribbling.”