Kings

Catching up with two-time former King, Omri Casspi

casspi-split.jpg
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.

Kings' Bogdanovic congratulates Doncic after winning EuroLeague title, Final Four MVP

Kings' Bogdanovic congratulates Doncic after winning EuroLeague title, Final Four MVP

BOX SCORE

Luka Doncic had quite the weekend.

On Saturday, he was named regular season MVP of the EuroLeague. On Sunday, he helped lead Real Madrid to the EuroLeague title and was named MVP of the Final Four. 

Doncic finished with 15 points, four assists and three rebounds in Real Madrid's 85-80 win over Fenerbahce.

During Real Madrid's celebration, current Kings guard and former Fenerbahce guard Bogdan Bogdanovic was on the court and congratulated Doncic on his accomplishments.

Earlier in the day, Bogdanovic was reportedly asked about the possibility of the Kings drafting Doncic with the No. 2 pick.

"It will be nice to have him, but you never know. He might go No. 1," Bogdanovic said according to David Pick.

With rumors swirling that Doncic might stay with Real Madrid next season, ESPN asked him about his future plans after the big win.

"I will tell about all at the right time. Right now I just want to celebrate with my team. Soon I will tell," Doncic said.

Possible Kings' top pick Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP

Possible Kings' top pick Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP

When the Kings moved up to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the excitement in Sacramento was palpable. General Manager Vlade Divac and the team’s management group could go in a couple of different directions, but European star Luka Doncic is expected to get plenty of consideration for a Kings team in search of a franchise player.

On Saturday, Doncic was named the Turkish Airlines MVP of the EuroLeague, which only adds more fuel to the fire in Sacramento.  

“It’s amazing, it’s like a dream come true,” the 19-year-old Slovenian told media members on Saturday. “Still, we have one more game to go, which would make me so much more happier.”

The 6-foot-8 wing posted 16.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 25.9 minutes per game for Real Madrid.

Doncic and his Real Madrid teammates will face off with Fenerbahce in the European Cup Finals on Sunday. His 16-point, 7-rebound performance against CSKA Moscow on Friday helped propel his club into the championship game.

“It’s going to be really really hard,” Doncic said. “Fenerbahce has an amazing team, amazing coach, they have amazing fans. So it’s going to be a really hard game. We need to be focused 40 minutes, every possession and like a team. We need to play like a team.”

There is still a possibility that Doncic could unseat Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton for the top overall selection in the draft. He’s a versatile player that can play the point guard, shooting guard and small forward position and is considered one of the best prospects to come out of Europe in the last two decades.