Israelis love basketball. Gross generalizations are often, well, gross. But I feel comfortable in this blanket statement: Israelis love basketball. Israel is a basketball country.
The Kings made Omri Casspi the No. 23 pick in the NBA Draft at about 6 AM local time in Israel. By 7 AM Israel time, I had received an email from Eran Soroka of the Ma'ariv Sports Newspaper. We discussed Omri's NBA chances, and Eran -- who said he has covered Casspi for several years -- offered this assessment.
Casspi is a great guy to deal with, as a start. Smiling, talkative, ambitious. But on the court, he's always driven. He brings energy and intensity in every step on the court. He's a good athlete comparing to some of his European colleagues, he's fast and runs the fast breaks to finish with authority. He hustles for loose balls, moves very well without the ball and have a knack for finding the basket.The most important thing about Omri, in my humble opinion, is his motivation to improve and his quick learning and execution. When he was told that he needs to improve his outside shooting, he did, and he shot 45% in the Euroleague from downtown last season. He was told to work on his midrange game, and he did improve it. Now he still needs to bulk up, and to improve his passing and shooting mechanics.Although he's not a massive guy, he's a tough one. In our Ma'ariv Newspaper he explained a couple of days ago: "When I went to the workouts, I knew I can be like everyone else and then I can fall between 25th and 40th picks, but I wanted to bring something different to the table. I wanted to bring the toughness, to be competitive and aggresive in every workout. Maybe I wasn't a combat soldier at the Israeli army, but there's something in the Israeli spirit that is injected into you in an early stage of your life. You learn how to fight."
The Kings need fighters. Desperately. I think we've found one here in Casspi. Welcome to Sacramento, Omri.