OAKLAND -- Omri Casspi took a deep breath and paused and started talking and, honestly, seemed to be suppressing his emotions to keep them from tumbling out.
The veteran forward was moments removed from his most extended playing time as a member of the Warriors, 20 minutes in a 125-101 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Casspi, 29, is a native of Israel who has been on six different NBA rosters, Sacramento to the west, Houston and New Orleans to the south, Cleveland to the east and Minnesota to the west. Now that he’s member of the Warriors, well, he seems downright grateful to be here and particularly appreciative to have Steve Kerr has his head coach.
Asked what it means to have a coach who spent his 15-year NBA career as a reserve and can share that kinship, Casspi needed a moment.
“Wow. I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “It’s the first time . . . he really knows how to get to me, coaching into my heart.
“As a player that comes into a team that obviously won championships, you know what you’re getting into, it’s really important for me as an individual that you have that relationship with your coach. And I feel like he really got to my heart. He keeps me going. He’s a very special human being . . . I’m enjoying this very much.”
That much was apparent Wednesday. He had submitted a fine line: 13 points, three rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one assist. He had played a total of 65 minutes over the first 11 games, and he was savoring the opportunity.
“I feel like it’s first time in my career, not to take anything from the different teams I’ve played with in the past,” he said, “but I feel like the way we play, our offense, our defense as well . . . I feel like I can play basketball and not think too much. Just play the game.”
For Casspi, that means moving without the ball and making slick passes on offense, while sneaking in and being a disruptive force on defense. He was plus-9 because he was effective at both ends.
So effective was Casspi that as he stood at the line to shoot free throws in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors were closing out the victory, he received “MVP” chants from the Oracle Arena crowd.
It’s enough to leave his coach beaming.
“On a night like this, it allows guys like Omri and Nick (Young) to step in there and get good minutes,” Kerr said. “It’s good for the team, it’s good for morale, it’s good for individual development.”
There is that kinship thing. Kerr is a big believer in communicating with all of his players, especially those who don’t have established roles and regular playing time. That was him 20 years ago, and he seems to excel at having a feel for backup players.
So Casspi, playing behind a championship team with established stars for the first time, is positively euphoric.
“I’m able to cut and do the stuff that role players should do,” he said. “I’m enjoying it, I’m loving it and I want to keep doing it. And keep going and play hard and do what I need to do.”