Omri Casspi

Omri Casspi states his case to remain on Warriors' roster

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AP

Omri Casspi states his case to remain on Warriors' roster

OAKLAND -- The Warriors, after waiting for months and getting exceedingly rare glimpses, would like to believe Omri Casspi arrived Monday night.

When the veteran forward signed a one-year contract last July, the Warriors expected a fundamentally sound offensive player whose 3-point shooting could provide floor spacing for their reserve unit. They didn’t expect much defense.

For nearly four months, Casspi, using constant motion to outwit defenders, has delivered only on the fundamentally sound offensive player component.

That’s why Casspi’s performance in the 57th game of the season, a 129-83 rout of the vastly inferior Phoenix Suns, was so encouraging -- and necessary for him to get playing time with the team’s second unit in meaningful games.

Starting at power forward for the injured Draymond Green, Casspi played 27 minutes and totaled a season-high 19 points, on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, with game-high 10 rebounds. Playing all 12 minutes of a garbage-time fourth quarter, he scored 11 points and boosted his plus-minus to plus-28 for the game.

The highlight, though, was Casspi draining a top-of-the-arc 3 pointer for his first triple since Dec. 14.

“He played amazing,” Stephen Curry said.

Casspi’s production was a welcome sight for the Warriors inasmuch as they went into the trade deadline actively seeking someone who could provide what they hoped they’d get from Casspi.

Even now, the Warriors continue to monitor the buyout market for someone capable of giving them what they anticipated from 29-year-old Israel.

“I felt like the guys found me early with some easy ones to get going,” Casspi said. “I put a lot of effort into spacing the floor more and shooting more 3s. (Media) come to practice. You guys see me all the way in the corner trying to shoot a lot more, get back into being more of what I used to do. Add that to cutting and moving also. I’m trying. On the run, on the fly, it’s been tough, but it is what it is. It’s part of the game, and I’m happy coach trusted me to go out there and compete. It felt good.”

The Warriors have accepted that Casspi’s defense is a liability and this his minutes depend on matchups and timing. They have to pick their spots to play him, and pick very, very carefully if he’s not spacing the floor and scoring.

“I’ve hardly played him, through no fault of his own,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He just hasn’t had much of chance. I think it’s great for Omri to have a night like tonight and Nick Young to get extended minutes.”

Casspi has played in 44 games, with seven starts. He has, due to a variety of minor ailments, gone as many as three consecutive games without getting a second of action.

As the Warriors approach home stretch, general manager Bob Myers needs to know if there is a place for Casspi. Kerr and his staff need to know. Casspi’s teammates need to know.

“He obviously rebounded the ball well, shot well from the floor, was aggressive and took advantage of Draymond’s absence,” Curry said. “So he’s obviously a very smart player. And when he has those opportunities to just play off of the other four guys that are out there on the floor that’s when he’s at his best.”

The Warriors still don’t know for sure if Casspi will be useful in the postseason, which is why Myers hasn’t abandoned thoughts of a roster change in the coming weeks.

Casspi, however, gave everyone something to think about on Monday night.

Catching up with two-time former King, Omri Casspi

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USATSI

Catching up with two-time former King, Omri Casspi

SACRAMENTO -- A shot flys from the left baseline, arching high towards the Golden 1 Center scoreboard before coming softly back down towards the rim. Nothing but net. 

It was a familiar sight. One Kings fans became accustomed to not once, but twice. Omri Casspi was back in Sacramento, but he was wearing Warriors royal blue and golden yellow.

The 29-year-old forward signed with the champs over the summer to add a scoring punch off the bench. He’s averaging 6.4 points points in 15.6 minutes per game for the Warriors. When his number is called, the nine-year NBA vet has delivered, shooting a blistering 58.9 percent form the field and 50 percent form behind the arc.

Casspi left the Kings last season as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. He played one game in New Orleans before breaking his thumb. Needing a roster spot, the Pelicans waived Casspi and he finished the season playing the final 13 games for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Following Warriors shootaround on Friday, we caught up with Casspi for a sit down.

JH: What a difference a year makes for you. Last year, you were struggling through a season here in Sacramento, had some injury issues. Now you find yourself in this incredible here with the Warriors. How blessed to do feel for this opportunity?

OC: It’s been great. When you’re going through a tough time, I always kept a positive mindset and believed that good things would happen. It’s been an amazing journey through ups and downs throughout my nine years, but I’m really feeling blessed to be in this position with these guys and this organization and this coaching staff. It’s just a fun place to be in. It’s a fun place to come to work everyday. It’s fun to play a game every night at a sold out arena. National TV every other game. It’s been great so far?

JH: Is this a perfect fit for your game, this Warriors team? It seems like it’s a really good fit.

OC: I always felt like in certain situations I can play better. I feel like 60-70 percent of the league, the players in league, have to fit in in the right situation for them to be successful. That’s a big chunk of the league. And I feel always that playing in a system where the ball is moving, guys are moving and bodies are moving and the egos are directed in the right direction can benefit me. Can benefit anybody in general, but it benefits my game.

JH: You learned from a pretty young age that you’ve got to fit in, that you have to find a role. That’s something we’ve discussed before, from your time with Kevin McHale (in Houston). Is that something you’ve carried forward and been able to apply?

OC: No doubt. Coming into this team isn’t easy as a free agent. The system and the coaching and everything around it is great, but at the same time, these are proven winners  and they’ve done so well with their rotations, so it’s kind of a not easy thing to go into, but I always felt like I play hard, I’ll do the stuff that I do and play my game and good things will happen my way. Thanks God we have a great coaching staff. Steve (Kerr) is amazing. He’s just an amazing person to be around and an amazing basketball mind. It’s always fun to learn from him. The guys are selfless. They don’t care if you score or he scores or whatever - it’s all about the goal of winning and winning a championship. It’s a fun place to play basketball at.

JH: You are a two-time Sacramento King. I’m sure you have some good memories here, some great memories, some not so great memories. But you kind of grew up Sacramento. How is everything going with you off the court? A new baby, wife, everything else?

OC: It’s been great. Sacramento - we drove the bus yesterday, saw a lot of familiar places. It will always have a big part of my heart. I love Sacramento. I love the fans here. We always talk about, even us, even though this team struggled, they have such a strong fanbase and the fans here are great. It’s always fun to play here in Sacramento. As a King or as a competitor against the Kings. Everything has been great - wifey’s great, we have a little one and she’s been awesome. Life’s been good, thank God, I can’t complain.

JH: DeMarcus (Cousins), tragic. Where are you at with his injury? Have you talked to DeMarcus? What are your thoughts on something like that when you see it happen to a former teammate?

OC: That’s tough. It’s just tough. DeMarcus has been such a pro and found a good niche in New Orleans. It all seems like it’s going in the right direction and finally, DeMarcus would be in the playoffs and they would have a great run there. We talked, I texted him. I didn’t want to bother him, he probably got a ton of messages and stuff like that. Knowing DeMarcus, he probably took it hard the first day and then he’s back on the grind. I know he’ll be back strong, better. Just in a contract year for him and with the money that’s on the table for him, it’s kind of tough. At the same time, it’s basketball, it’s life, it is what it is. He’s a strong person and he’ll come back stronger.

JH: How much do you want that ring?

OC: (Smiling) A lot.

As trade deadline looms, Warriors ready to readdress bench shooting

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USATSI

As trade deadline looms, Warriors ready to readdress bench shooting

OAKLAND -- Surrounded by cameras and recording devices, Warriors general manager Bob Myers spent 17 minutes Thursday discussing the upcoming trade deadline while a lone member of the team was nearby practicing 3-point shots.

If veteran forward Omri Casspi were swishing in games at a rate similar to his clip during Myers’ news conference, the Warriors might not be so eager to shop the market for an extra 3-point shooter.

And they are very much in the market for one.

“We’ll look at everything,” Myers said when asked specifically about 3-point shooting off the bench.

They have to look at deep shooters because it’s the most visible weakness of the team with the best record in the NBA. The Warriors (40-11) average two triples per game from their bench players, ranking last in the NBA.

After finishing next-to-last in that category in 2016-17, getting 2.1 triples per game, the Warriors last summer set out to address that deficiency by adding guard Nick Young and Casspi. They clearly have not fully addressed the need.

“It’s just the way our team is built,” coach Steve Kerr said this week. “We’re pretty top-heavy with the 3-point shot. Obviously, we’ve got three of the best 3-point shooters in the world, but not a lot of depth behind those guys in terms of our shooting.

“Nick’s a good shooter, a good 3-point shooter. He has the potential. He has shown, in many games, to give us that threat. He’s made some big shots and I’m confident that he will make more.”

Kerr may be spot-on. Young may become that “instant offense” threat that gives opposing defenses headaches. In 49 games this season, 176 of his 261 shots have come from beyond the arc. He’s shooting a respectable 38.6 percent from deep.

Casspi, however, has not been much of a 3-point threat at all. Though the guy who shot 40.9 percent on 274 treys two seasons ago for the Kings is shooting a robust 50 percent through 39 games with the Warriors, it’s a tiny sample size, as in 9-of-18.

Part of the problem is that Casspi needs time and space to get his shot off, and defenses haven’t always been accommodating. Another part of the problem, and Casspi is well aware of it, is that he has not been aggressive at launching from deep.

“When we call upon him, he’s always ready with his energy and his cutting and his movement and rebounding,” Kerr said. “It’s a great luxury as a coach.”

Casspi’s instincts on offense are only part of the reason the Warriors signed him. They also figured they were getting someone who could stretch the floor with his deep shooting.

Because it has not materialized, the Warriors are casting their eyes upon the rosters of other teams.

“People like to talk about all the things we have, which we are fortunate to have a very good roster,” Myers said. “But no roster is perfect. That’s why we listen. We look around and explore different things.

“We want to shoot better. We want to rebound better. But overall I can’t be too critical.”

The trade deadline is set at 12pm PT on Feb. 8. Myers said he has been in contact with maybe two-thirds of the teams in the league. Don’t expect that to change over the next seven days.