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A farewell to Omri Casspi

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The Kings traded a fan favorite this week.

Kimani Okearah

Omri Casspi’s second tenure with the Sacramento Kings came to an end on Sunday night when he was included in the blockbuster trade that sent DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans. As I feared prior to the All-Star break, the Kings essentially gave Omri Casspi away. He never got a real opportunity to play for the Kings this season, partly because of injury, partly because he wasn’t Matt Barnes, and all of that is ultimately ok, if not super frustrating.

The Kings didn’t give the Pelicans a free All-Star, but they did give the Pelicans a damn good player whose effort you can never question. He’s going to play hard, he’s going to run the floor on every transition opportunity, he’s going to cut to the hoop incessantly, and he’s going to hit a lot of deep threes from the perimeter. He’s a good player. He deserved better here this season.

A big part of me is excited for Omri. He’s going to a team that just added a second All-Star big to it’s other All-Star big. They need shooters, they need spacing, they need glue guys, and Casspi is perfect for that team right now. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, and I hope the Pelicans give him enough run to salvage what has been a disastrous contract year thus far. I think he’ll be just fine, but you never know.

Another part of me is bummed at the Kings’ poor decision making and asset management throughout Omri Casspi’s tenure. Casspi could have had real value on the trade market if the Matt Barnes signing never happened. Even with the Barnes signing, Casspi should have been playing, but Dave Joerger just couldn’t help himself. Barnes was his guy, and that’s fine, but going that route clearly did not work out of the Kings. Casspi’s value sunk to throw in value and Matt Barnes will ultimately be paid $10 million by the Kings for 54 games of mediocre-at-absolute-best basketball after being waived in wake of the Cousins swap. Well played, boys.

I think Dave Joerger is an excellent head coach, and I think he’s the right coach for the Kings’ long-term success, provided he is still on the same page as the front office, but his handling of Casspi this season was alarming. It’s the biggest criticism I have of the job he’s done so far, but so much of the love Sacramento has for Omri Casspi had nothing to do with basketball.

Omri Casspi made it ok to love Sacramento again, in a weird, kind of tongue-in-cheek sort of way. The Kings are still severely depressing, but there was a period of time where it felt like nobody wanted to be here, and it wasn’t just All-Stars. There was nobody advocating for Sacramento from a players perspective. I could be off base here, but it felt like Casspi brought some of that back. He was so I love Sacramento for so long and now you’re starting to see a lot of players, from DeMarcus Cousins to Derrick Williams, publicly advocating for Sacramento as a place where NBA players should want to be. Whether or not that resonates with NBA players who are on the outside looking in remains to be seen, but to me, anyway, Casspi’s consistent public advocation for Sacramento started that conversation again.

I was surprised to see that tweet by Derrick Williams yesterday. Not because he’s wrong, but because he didn’t have a particularly good run here, and I didn’t think he’d have fond memories of being compared to a Coke Machine for his bad rebounding by then-coach George Karl. I’m not giving Casspi credit for Williams promoting Sacramento, but to me, anyway, Casspi brought that trend back. Sacramento has a history of winning players over once they get here, so this isn’t a new thing, but it did sort of go away for a while, and at least in my opinion, Casspi started it again.

It’s kind of hard for me to explain why Casspi felt so connected to the city, which is equally hard for me to write with any conviction because I don’t live in Sacramento, but I could feel his love for the city from 3,000 miles away.

With that being said, I can relate to what Casspi felt during his time in Sacramento. As someone who has no real local ties to the region aside from being a fan of the team, I feel like part of the city, and I can’t even begin to explain why. It makes no sense, and that’s fine. Everything doesn’t need an explanation. You’re good people, though, Sacramento. I’ll advocate for that too.

I’ll miss watching Casspi play basketball, but beyond that, I’ll miss having Casspi as part of the Sacramento community and I don’t even live there. I know I’m not alone.

Thank you, Omri.