SACRAMENTO -- The Sacramento Kings can’t shake the drama. It follows them around like a shadow, always just a small step away.
Rumors swirled on Saturday afternoon that veteran small forward Omri Casspi had demanded a trade from the Kings after a major reduction in minutes through the first 11 games of the season. Casspi was quick to refute those rumors, telling CSN California that, “Zero truth to that. Zero.”
While he hasn’t demanded a trade, it is clear that Casspi is unhappy in his role with the Kings, which got a little bit worse on Sunday when he was informed that he was out of the rotation.
“I didn’t think this season would start the way it did for me, minutes wise,” Casspi told reporters following practice on Monday. “Now it’s up to me to work hard in practice like I’ve been doing and try to get back in the rotation, because obviously, I’m out of it now.”
New head coach Dave Joerger alluded to setting his rotation on Sunday afternoon, but didn’t give specifics regarding individual players.
“It’s impossible, but it just is what it is,” Joerger said when asked about the difficulty of managing a roster of 12 veteran NBA players. “We’ve kind of decided in the direction we’re going to go for a while and I think that helps guys know if they are in or they are out.”
Joerger has used Casspi primarily as a reserve stretch four this season and sprinkled in some minutes at the three as well. But a hip injury and an illness put him out of action for more than a week of training camp and he fell behind 36-year-old Matt Barnes in rotation, who played last season for Joerger.
“It’s part of being in the NBA,” Casspi said. “I didn’t think from the organization standpoint that I would go that far back, from playing 27 minutes to taking me out of the rotation so quick. It is what it is. I’ve got to be a pro about it.”
The Kings have struggled early in Joerger’s high post system as plenty of them try to adjust from George Karl’s uptempo, free flowing style from last season.
“I don’t feel like this system is ideal for me, but I don’t think it’s bad for me,” Casspi said.
Casspi said that Joerger’s system is similar to the one that Michael Malone ran a few seasons ago in Sacramento. He went on to say that he felt great in that system under Malone, but he just needs playing time to get comfortable.
The 28-year-old wing is in his second tour of duty in Sacramento. He was drafted by the Kings with the 23rd overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft. After playing two seasons in Sacramento, he was traded to Cavaliers and spent a season in Houston as well.
The Israeli-born wing signed a league minimum one-year deal before the 2014-15 to return to Sacramento and then a two-year, $6 million contract two summers ago to remain with the Kings. He is a free agent following the season and was hopeful of staying with the club on a long-term deal.
But he’s appeared in just six of the Kings’ 11 contests, averaging 4.3 points and 3.2 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per game after posting 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per night last season.
Casspi said he plans to speak to general manager Vlade Divac later on Monday. He is hoping for some sort of resolution, even if that means moving on.
“What goes through my mind is I can help this team win,” Casspi said. “It might be here today, I’ve got to stay ready. It might be somewhere else.”