Omri Casspi to play for Houston

Omri Casspi to play for Houston

After two frustrating years in Cleveland, forward will hope to start fresh with a two-year, $2 million deal

Double chai. Omri Casspi in the locker room before Wednesday's game. (Photo credit: Howard Blas, Times of Israel)
Double chai. Omri Casspi in the locker room before Wednesday's game. (Photo credit: Howard Blas, Times of Israel)

Omri Casspi, the only Israeli hoopster to ever play in the NBA, will sign a two-year, $2 million (NIS 7.3 million) deal with the Houston Rockets, Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday.

The contract will also include a team option for the 2014-15 season, the report said.

Casspi, a native of Holon, began his professional basketball career at the age of 17 with perennial Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv. The following season he left to Hapoel Galil Elyon, where he shined among a group of young Israeli players.

Casspi returned to Tel Aviv in 2007 and was a solid contributor throughout the following two seasons, including a surprise trip to the Euroleague Final Four in 2008 that ended with a defeat in the finals to Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow.

In 2009 Casspi declared himself eligible for the NBA draft and was selected in the first round by the Sacramento Kings. Throughout his first season in the NBA, he was often greeted by Israeli flag-wielding fans in the crowd, even on road trips.

The former Maccabi Tel Aviv star impressed in his rookie season with the Kings, averaging 10.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, but his statistics dipped the following season.

In 2011 Casspi was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he got little playing time over the next two seasons. During the 2012-13 season, his numbers hit career lows: four points and 2.7 rebounds per game in only 43 games.

Casspi joins a young but talented team that’s shaping up to be a possible contender with the likes of James Harden and superstar center Dwight Howard, who committed to the team earlier on Saturday.

Casspi’s choice of team for next season will enable him to hang out with point guard Gal Mekel, a former teammate of Casspi’s in Maccabi Tel Aviv who’ll be only a three-hour drive away, in Dallas.

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