Two years after he’d been traded by the Kings, Casspi maintained ties to the community, and he stayed tight with friends like DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson. He had experienced his greatest NBA success during his time in Sacramento, and he always felt as if he had unfinished business.
Thankfully, the Kings reciprocated his interest with a contract offer, demonstrating to Casspi that you can indeed go home again. But when he got there, he found the atmosphere to have changed significantly – for the better.
With the Kings no longer in danger of being moved from Sacramento and a new arena on tap for 2016, the energy around the team is the best since the salad days of Chris Webber and White Chocolate. It’s no coincidence that they got off to a fast start that turned heads around the league, and last week’s three-year extension for cornerstone Rudy Gay was an investment in keeping the good times rolling.
“Right now, it just felt like the right energy and the right atmosphere for me to be in,” Casspi said in a phone conversation last Wednesday. “Sacramento always had a different vibe — it has my first NBA game, my first preseason and all of that. I was fortunate enough to come back.”
The Kings are just as fortunate that he did. Casspi returned to Sactown a way more efficient player than the wide-eyed neophyte who arrived as the first — and only — Israeli first-round pick in NBA history. Want evidence? Just watch him play.
Previously known as primarily a long-distance shooter, Casspi now spends most of his time relentlessly attacking the paint, and his energy and tenacity have not gone unnoticed.
Casspi’s zenith came on Tuesday night, when he started for an injured Gay and scored 22 points in a win over the Pelicans, who cut him over the summer in a salary cap move.
“He’s moving without the ball, he’s making plays for his teammates and he has a great understanding of the game,” Kings coach Michael Malone said recently. “We’re thrilled to have him and we need him to continue to play at a high level.”
For his part, Casspi views his newly aggressive modus operandi as a positive byproduct of his return to his old stomping grounds.
“More than anything, it’s just being comfortable — comfortable in the role, comfortable in the system, comfortable in the city,” Casspi said, “I like to be able to not just be a three-point shooter, to penetrate and get into the lane and create.
“It’s just fun, you know? It’s pretty simple.”