Omri Casspi has made a great impression on his new coach, Byron Scott, who has taken to comparing the Israeli basketball star to a pit bull.
“[Casspi] is an intense competitor and I like that about him. He has his fun after practice ... but when he's in practice he's the same way,” Scott said. "We need some guys like that. I always put it this way: We don't need Chihuahuas, we don't need poodles, we don't need German Shepherds. We need pit bulls and it's good to have a few of them. I think he is one of them. If you have a bunch of Chihuahuas you are going to be in trouble."
After starting his career with the Sacramento Kings, Casspi was traded this offseason to Scott’s Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a lottery-protected first-round pick and J.J. Hickson.
In Cleveland’s annual Wine and Gold intrasquad scrimmage on Sunday, it was Casspi’s passion more than his nine points that captivated both the Cleveland crowd and his coach. The Israeli was seen hustling for loose balls and slamming the ball in frustration after missing a 3-point shot.
“I try to compete all the time. I try to play tough, hard, always aggressive,” Casspi said afterwards. "We are not going to take it easy. That's not going to be our mentality. ... I don't care if we are playing Detroit or the [Los Angeles] Lakers or whoever, we are going to try to win every game."
Casspi added that he plans to focus on his defense this season.
"I feel like I need to do extra, especially on the defensive end, We need to play defense to get on the floor," he said.
“He’s a little more athletic than people think,” Scott said of his small forward. “He gets up and down the floor and moves very well. … I love what I saw in him today.”
The Cavaliers are counting on Casspi and fellow new additions Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to improve on last year’s disastrous campaign, which saw the team only win 19 games.
Last year in his second season in the NBA, Casspi averaged 8.6 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.
J-Connection: Omri Casspi is Jewish. Born in Holon, Israel, Casspi played for Maccabi Tel Aviv before he came to the NBA in 2009.