Casspi gain­ing con­fi­dence, com­fort level with War­riors

Jerusalem Post - - SPORTS - R #Z "--0/ 4*/"* (Reuters)

After get­ting life with the Golden State War­riors off to a frus­trat­ing start, Omri Casspi is slowly be­gin­ning to carve out a role for him­self with the NBA cham­pion.

The 29-year-old Is­raeli for­ward had his best game for the team since join­ing in the sum­mer on Wed­nes­day night, post­ing 13 points, three re­bounds, three blocks, two steals, one as­sist and one three-pointer in 20 min­utes off the bench in the 125-101 win over the Min­ne­sota Timberwolves.

After los­ing two of their first three games, the War­riors (9-3) have won eight of nine to move top of the West­ern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, with Wed­nes­day’s vic­tory the team’s fifth in a row by at least 17 points.

Min­ne­sota en­tered with five con­sec­u­tive wins, but the streak ended with War­riors guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thomp­son or­ches­trat­ing a 44-26 third-quar­ter blitz.

Thomp­son fin­ished with 28 points, and Curry added 22, eight as­sists and eight re­bounds.

“I feel like this is the first time in my ca­reer that be­cause of the way we play on of­fense and de­fense I can just play bas­ket­ball without think­ing too much and just play the game,” said Casspi. “And I have great guys around me who ob­vi­ously take a lot of fo­cus so I’m able to cut and do the stuff that a role player should do. I’m en­joy­ing it and lov­ing it so I just want to keep go­ing, play hard and do what I need to do.”

Casspi hadn’t played more than 13 min­utes in a game this sea­son un­til Wed­nes­day, but made the most of Kevin Du­rant’s ab­sence due to a thigh in­jury. Last sea­son’s Fi­nals MVP is ex­pected to be back in the lineup for Satur­day’s game ver­sus Philadel­phia.

“I went to [Kevin Du­rant] in the locker room and told him: “You are hold­ing me back bro. They are call­ing MVP for me,” Casspi joked after be­ing asked about the “M-V-P” chants he re­ceived from fans. “It was just funny and I missed a free throw be­cause of that. I couldn’t fo­cus.”

Casspi un­der­stands he can’t ex­pect more than a lim­ited role on the league’s best team, but he is more than con­tent with that.

“I told [Coach] Steve [Kerr] in the sum­mer, like I tell him ev­ery day when he comes to me to say that I might not play and he doesn’t know what will hap­pen, that I’ll be ready,” noted Casspi, who is in his ninth NBA sea­son.

“It is just be­ing a pro­fes­sional and be­ing a guy that knows his role on the team. And when­ever he needs me to go out there and bring en­ergy and play hard and do the stuff I do, I’ll be ready. And he knows that and I’m happy for that. I take a lot of pride in be­ing ready when­ever he needs me.”

Reuters con­trib­uted to this re­port. IS­RAELI FOR­WARD Omri Casspi is play­ing his way into the reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion on the Golden State War­riors. The 29-year-old nine-year NBA vet­eran had his best game with the team on Wed­nes­day night.

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