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Morning Conversation: What does the future hold for Omri Casspi?

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Are Omri Casspi’s days as a Sacramento King numbered?

Kimani Okearah

Omri Casspi was diagnosed with what was only referenced as a ‘calf injury’ back on January 17th. At the time, reports indicated that Casspi was only going to miss a maximum of two weeks, and considering the fact that he wasn’t in Dave Joerger’s rotation at the time, (that is a different problem entirely) his injury wasn’t a significant on-court blow to the Kings.

Of course, two days later Rudy Gay ruptured his achilles. It’s been a month since Casspi’s two-week timetable was announced, and he still hasn’t returned to the court.

The good news is Omri Casspi is slated to return when the Kings start playing basketball again on February 23rd after the All-Star break. If that February 23rd date sounds familiar to you, it should! It’s also the trade deadline. This is speculative on my part, but it’s very possible we’ve seen the last of Omri Casspi in a Sacramento Kings uniform, which would be a sad ending to what was a really fun round two for Casspi and the Kings.

If Casspi isn’t dealt by the February 23rd deadline, I’m very curious to see what kind of role, if any, he has with the Kings for the second half of the season.

When Gay went down with the achilles tear, I really thought that was Casspi’s opening to prove to Dave Joerger and the Kings’ new coaching staff that he belonged not only in the Kings’ rotation this season, but that he had a place on the team beyond this year, particularly if the Kings could re-sign him to another team-friendly contract this summer. He is an NBA rotation player, I will take that to my grave.

The Kings have played reasonably well since all of Rudy Gay, Garrett Temple, and Omri Casspi went down. You might have to add Malachi Richardson to that list after he suffered what looked like a pretty nasty hamstring injury last night against the Warriors, but we’ll cross that bridge when we have more information.

My fear now, and I use that term very loosely, is that Casspi might not actually have a spot in the Kings’ rotation when he returns. If he’s not dealt by the deadline, of course.

Arron Afflalo has been the starting small forward in Gay and Casspi’s absence, and he’s performed perfectly-below-average-but-passable over the last month. Ben McLemore, Matt Barnes (minus his three-point shot), Anthony Tolliver, and Willie Cauley-Stein are all playing better now than they were when Casspi went down, and Joerger was still playing those guys over Casspi when they weren’t playing well. Garrett Temple figures to be a lock in the Kings’ post-All-Star break rotation when he returns, which also could very well happen on February 23rd. Omri Casspi might find himself as the odd man out, again.

Casspi certainly wasn’t having the best season of his career when he injured his calf in mid-January, but he’s also played the fewest minutes on the roster, excluding the rookies. That is probably my single biggest gripe with Joerger’s decision making this season, but different strokes, etc.

I’ve been pretty vocal in my support of Casspi as a person and player throughout his second tenure with the Kings. I like him off the court as much as I like him on it, but this wouldn’t be a repeated topic of discussion for me if I didn’t have such a strong belief that he could help the Kings on the court if given the opportunity to do so.

How do you see the Omri Casspi story playing out after the All-Star break?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been trained by this organization to expect the most disheartening outcome in every circumstance, but if I had to make a prediction today, I’d guess that Casspi is dealt in some kind of throw-away, make-good deal at the deadline that will give him an opportunity to prove that he’s an NBA rotation player elsewhere, thus saving what has been a dreadful contract year for him. The Kings will spin it like they were the good guys, giving a player they had no long-term plans for a chance to spread his wings with someone else.

Think Seth Curry, a player the Kings had control over in restricted free agency, who is now thriving in Dallas. The Kings can say they were being nice to Curry, who may or may not have asked out of his restricted free agency obligations, which totally re-directs attention from the actual problem - the Kings blew the Curry situation way before restricted free agency. They blew the Seth Curry thing during the season when it was obvious that he was the best shooting guard on the roster, and they just didn’t play him enough. We’re heading in that direction with Omri Casspi. Poor asset management, blah blah blah, we’ve said this a million times before.

Prove me wrong, Kings.

And if this is the end of Casspi’s time in Sacramento, I wish him nothing but the best. Go do your thing.