Omri Casspi is many things.
He is an eight-year vet who spaces the floor, with a career clip of 36.7% from downtown. He’s the first player born in Israel to play in the NBA. And he’s a newly-minted Golden State Warrior, and one that represents a large improvement for this year’s team.
With his slick shooting, versatility on both ends of the court and selfless style of play, Casspi figures to play a huge role in the upcoming season. And, in an exclusive interview with Golden State of Mind, Casspi expanded upon what he figures to bring to this team, and what he intends to get out of the experience.
Note: In the second part of this story, Casspi discusses bringing basketball back to his home country through Basketball Without Borders. We’ll publish that in the coming days.
A perfect fit on the court
The Warriors’ style is not exactly a secret. The teams spaces the floor, passes the ball, shoots a lot of three-pointers and switches nearly everything on defense. On paper, Casspi — a very good spot-up shooter — is a good fit.
In reality, he’s a terrific fit.
Despite employing three of the top shooters in the world, Golden State largely eschews the inefficient mid-range jumper. Last year the team was 27th in the league in shots attempted from 20-24 feet, and 18th in shots from 15-19 feet, per NBA.com. The Dubs live by layups and threes, something that fits Casspi’s mantra as well.
“My game [the past few years] has basically been more of a shooter, and a guy that won’t take bad shots. Rebounder, runner, take it the rim. I don’t shoot a lot of mid-range — I think the past few years I’ve shot maybe five or 10 mid-range the whole year. So I don’t take those, what’s called, in-between shots. I take the open shots, open threes, layups.”
While Casspi might sound hyperbolic, he’s actually selling himself short. Last year he only attempted four shots between 10 feet and the three-point line. Compare that to 118 shots in the paint, and 43 from beyond the arc, and you have a player tailor-made for Steve Kerr’s offense.
The love is mutual
While it’s clear that the Warriors are enamored with Casspi’s style of play, he is equally enamored with theirs. The Warriors’ style extends beyond the shots they take, and into the way they interact with one another.
We’ve all seen Stephen Curry lose his mind on the sidelines when Klay Thompson heats up, and hug Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant when they win prestigious awards.
Unprompted, Casspi brought up the selflessness that this team employs. I asked him what he remembered about Klay’s record-setting 37-point quarter, a game that Casspi played in. His answer showed just how aligned his basketball philosophy is with Golden State’s:
What I remember most is just the whole team plays for him. That takes character, and that takes a personality. Klay obviously was in a zone, and he was phenomenal. You can’t describe how great he was in that moment, but what I loved about it is the whole team — they really worked for him. They ran plays for him, they found him, they looked for him more and more and more, starting with Steph at the time, and then the rest of the team. That takes a lot of character I think, and guys that are knowing that the guy’s getting hot, they’re going to go to the hot man, and that was great to see.
The fear in bringing new players into such a well-oiled machine is that they’ll tinker with the mechanics, and throw things out of line. It seems pretty clear that no one needs to worry about that with Casspi. And it will be fun to see his new teammates feeding him when he gets the hot hand, as he did during his legendary shootout with Curry.
Golden opportunities for growth and wins
We’ve heard before that the Warriors are a team where players can grow, evolve and blossom on the court. Of course winning plays a role, but the opportunity to improve is part of why Durant came to the Bay Area, part of why Klay is happy being third- or fourth-fiddle and part of why Iguodala gave the team multiple chances to retain him this summer.
Not surprisingly, it was a big reason why Casspi took a discount to join the Warriors.
“Being in one of the best organizations in the world, not just in sports, [but] having the opportunity to learn from Coach Kerr and his staff, and from the guys that they have here as players, it’s going to help me grow my game so much,” Casspi said. “I’m 29 now, and I feel like at this point of my career, I feel like putting myself in a position to win, and learn every day, and keep my ears open, and work my butt off every day, just to get better as a player. [This] is going to make me so much better in the future.”
Of course, winning plays a vital role as well. Golden State has amassed the most wins in a three-year stretch in NBA history , while collecting two trophies in the process. For Casspi, who has seen the playoffs only once, and never in the second round, the chance to play in June was too good to pass up:
I want to put myself in the best situation to win ... I’ve been on some better teams, and some bad teams, and obviously knowing what I know now about the game, it’s always about winning at the end. And I love the game. It’s never been about money for me; it’s never been about making the most money; I could’ve made more money with different teams. And I want to grow as a basketball player, I want to be remembered at the end that I did all I can to become a better basketball player. I felt like joining a team that played the right way, with guys that they have, and coaches that they have, is going to put me where I can develop my game, and develop my brand into another level.
Asked if it’s hard to sacrifice minutes and shots in the pursuit of wins, Casspi was clear that it isn’t:
There will be opportunities to play. They might not be every night or whatever the case may be, but I know I’ll be ready and I have enough experience now, playing in the league for so many years, and in Europe, to be ready for the opportunity that will come, and be the best teammate I can be. I’ve always been a good teammate to my guys, and to the organization, and I want to put myself in a position to win, so that’s what it’s all about.
So, yes, Omri Casspi is more than just a floor-spacing forward with a silky jumper and a versatile game. He’s a player who perfectly fits the Warriors’ style, and a selfless talent far more interested in growing his game and collecting wins than putting up gaudy stats.