Omri Casspi begins his second stint with the Sacramento Kings this season after being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011. The small forward, who is now entering his sixth NBA season, is ready to get back on the basketball court, but he also is glad to be back in Sacramento where he has enjoyed seeing how much the city has grown since his previous campaign in a Kings uniform. Specifically, he is excited about the other sport he loves - soccer.
An avid soccer fan, Casspi has been following Sacramento's minor league soccer team, the Sacramento Republic, closely and thinks Major League Soccer would be a good fit in the capital city.
"I love soccer, for one, and two, I think it would be great for the city to have an MLS team here in Sac," said Casspi, who is expected to boost outside shooting for the Kings this season. "The city developed a lot from the time I was here. I was walking downtown and I was like, 'this wasn't here, this wasn't here, this wasn't here.' They have restaurants and bars. And the weather has always been great. But soccer can add another portion for this city. We're [the Kings] moving downtown, the city is really growing - it's fun to be a part of."
Earlier this month, Casspi was rumored to be considering becoming an investor in the Republic.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Am told that <a href="https://twitter.com/Casspi18">@Casspi18</a> of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBAKings?src=hash">#NBAKings</a> is considering investing in <a href="https://twitter.com/SacRepublicFC">@SacRepublicFC</a></p>— Dale Kasler (@dakasler) <a href="https://twitter.com/dakasler/status/513050701644050435">September 19, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Casspi confirmed on Friday that he is interested in being a part of the franchise.
"We'll see, they're building a team and hopefully I'll be a part of it. I want to be a part of it because I love soccer and I love the city of Sacramento, I think it's going to be great. I'm a big fan, and I enjoyed the game two weeks ago when I was there. I wish I could go tomorrow, but we have stuff to get done here first - I'll follow it," Casspi said.
The "stuff" he is referring to is Kings training camp, and the game he is referring to is Saturday's USL PRO championship match between the No. 2-seed Republic and the No. 8-seed Harrisburg City Islanders at Bonney Field in Sacramento. The Kings small forward offered the Republic some words of encouragement.
"Have fun, they know, I mean they made it all the way to the finals, they have home-court advantage, the fans are excited and we're all behind them so they're going to do their job, we're going to be here following, watching the game," said Casspi, who averaged 6.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 18 minutes per game for the Houston Rockets last season.
Some of the other Kings players had words of encouragement for the Republic on Friday at media day as well:
"I really hope everything goes well for them ... Every time I am out, they are always talking about soccer too, it's just not about basketball, it's about soccer too. So I think this is a great opportunity...This fan base is good for any sport, especially soccer."
"Go get it man, go get it. I'm excited. This is a good city as far as fan support so I'm sure everybody will be out and make sure they have a good game, make sure they get that win."
"Play hard, come back with the W."
"Good luck tomorrow Republic, I hope you get this win, I'll be watching, I'll be cheering. Do your thing."
"Keep fighting, and keep pushing, the Sacramento Kings, you have our support."
The Sacramento Republic's match will be broadcast on Channel 31 at 7:30 p.m. for those interested in tuning in.