Israeli NBA Star Heading West - The Jewish Voice
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Israeli NBA Star Heading West

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Omri Casspi became the first player from Israel to play in the NBA when he made his debut on October 28, 2009 at Oklahoma.

Former Maccabi Telaviv star and NBA forward Omri Casspi is returning to the Sacramento Kings. This is Casspi’s second go around with King Nation.

The Kings have finalized a one-year deal at the league minimum after he cleared waivers. The Kings drafted Casspi with the No. 23 overall pick in 2009, making him the first Israeli selected in the opening round. Casspi was traded to Cleveland after his second NBA season and spent last season, his fifth in the league, in Houston before the Rockets dealt him to New Orleans as part of the recent Omer Asik trade.

The Kings, sources said, initially considered claiming Casspi off waivers directly after his release from the Pelicans. But Sacramento, had it put in a waiver claim on Casspi, would have been forced to absorb his entire 2014-15 salary of $1,063,384, putting the Kings into luxury-tax territory.

Because the Kings let Casspi clear waivers and will now sign him to a new one-year minimum deal, Casspi will only count against the cap for $915,243, which enables the Kings to stay under the tax threshold without being forced to release forward Quincy Acy. Once the Kings complete the Casspi signing, they will have 14 players under contract while sitting just $61.052 under the tax line.

The 26-year old Israeli veteran small forward, was shocked to discover that he was traded from Houston to New Orleans this past offseason. After signing a two year deal with the Houston Rockets last summer, the basketball star thought Texas would be his new home for some time. Prior to signing with the Rockets, Casspi spent the first four years of his young NBA career learning NBA systems on the struggling Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Cavaliers benches.

However, Casspi who is Jewish and was born in Holon Israel didn’t even play a single minute in Houston’s first-round playoff defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers last season. He was unexpectedly traded to the New Orleans Pelicans shortly after and then waived. He will now be joining his third team in as many years.

Casspi and Dallas Mavericks guard Israeli native Gal Mekel are spending the summer with Israel’s national team in hopes of helping their country qualify for the 2015 Euro Basket. The new NBA season kicks off Wednesday 10/29/14.

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