Israeli NBA Player Adjusting to His New Position, on the Bench

Omri Caspi remains focused and quietly confident while trying to rejuvenate his career and impress his coaches.

Jerry Mittleman
Jerry Mittleman

These days, Omri Casspi has a very different role than he had in his first three NBA seasons. An oft time starter in his two years in Sacramento and during the first half of last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Casspi was finally benched due to his hesitant, ineffective play.

Today Casspi remains focused and quietly confident while trying to rejuvenate his NBA career and impress the Cavs coaching staff during the limited opportunities that he is given.

In an interview earlier in the month with Ha'aretz before a matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, in the spanking new Barclays Center, Casspi appeared calm and optimistic. "It's a long season and I know that my opportunity will come," he said.

So far Casspi has appeared in 10 games, 4.5 points during 11 minutes of play an evening. He never got off the bench on four occasions during the opening two weeks of the season.

Casspi returned to the Cavs rotation four games ago, due to the disappointing play of C.J. Miles, who was signed this summer to replace the 24-year-old Israeli, and is now getting 15 minutes a game.

The Cavs are off to a miserable 3-9 start and the picture only seems bleaker now that their star point guard Kyrie Irving has broken a finger and is due to miss the next month of play. The Cavs unexpectedly won their first game of Irving's absence, led by former Maccabi Tel Aviv star Jeremy Pargo's 28 point outburst. Friday night they returned to their losing ways against Orlando.

Cleveland's weak bench has been one of the main reasons for the team's slow start. Casspi and the rest of the Cavs subs are in a tenuous position and playing on a short leash. During the game in Brooklyn, Casspi was pulled after only three minutes of play, when the Nets broke the game completely open against the Cavs reserves.

Ray of hope

One ray of hope can be glimpsed from Casspi's play with the Israeli National team this past summer, where he showed renewed aggressiveness and self confidence under the tutelage of team coach Arik Shivek. Casspi led the national team in scoring averaging 19.5 points a game while shooting a scorching 65 percent from the field in a performance reminiscent of his successful rookie season with Sacramento.

"Arik helped me with the mental side of my game", said Casspi. "It was a special feeling playing for the national team in front of the home crowd. I felt relaxed, confident and assured of my opportunity". Cleveland coach Byron Scott followed Casspi's progress during the summer and was encouraged by what he saw.

For now, Casspi rides the bench, waits patiently and hopes to be ready and make the most of his next real opportunity.

Omri Caspi dunking last week. Credit: AP

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