Casspi returns to Maccabi Tel Aviv after decade in NBA

Basketballer signs three-year contract with team he played for before becoming the first Israeli to play in the top US league

Omri Casspi holding a Maccabi Tel Aviv jersey upon announcing he is returning to the club after a decade in the NBA, August 13, 2019. (Maccabi Tel Aviv official website)
Omri Casspi holding a Maccabi Tel Aviv jersey upon announcing he is returning to the club after a decade in the NBA, August 13, 2019. (Maccabi Tel Aviv official website)

Israeli forward Omri Casspi is returning to local basketball powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv after a decade-long career in the NBA.

Casspi, 31, has agreed on contract terms with the Tel Aviv squad he began his career with, the team said on its official website on Tuesday.

The announcement marks an end to Casspi’s run as the first Israeli in the world’s premier basketball league, which saw the journeyman play for several teams, including on a 2018 Golden State team that would go on to win a championship without him.

“The truth is that I am very excited. I did not believe I would be this excited,” Casspi told Maccabi’s official website. “I am returning home, returning to Maccabi Tel Aviv. I got here for the first time when I was 13 years old. I am proud and excited to be wearing the Maccabi jersey with the Star of David on the back. This is a very big privilege.”

His salary wasn’t immediately confirmed, but Hebrew-language media reported he would make $1.2 million or $1.3 million in his first year. Reports last month said the three-year contract would be for $3.2 million.

Casspi has also been named the new team captain upon signing with Maccabi and will reportedly receive a job at the Euroleague powerhouse after the contract expires.

“Omri Casspi returned to his home, to Maccabi,” Maccabi’s head coach Giannis Sfairopoulos said. “I am very pleased that we signed the best Israeli player. Omri will help the team very well to achieve our goals and he is excited to come back and help the team fight for its goals. Maccabi brought back the best Israeli player and that is kind of a statement.”

Omri Casspi #18 of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball against the Denver Nuggets on November 4, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy Golden State Warriors; Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Before he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2009, Casspi starred for Maccabi and helped it win a league title in the 2008-9 season.

Maccabi is the Israeli Basketball Premier League’s all-time winningest team and has been EuroLeague champion six times.

Over his 10-year NBA career, Casspi played for the Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors.

Casspi was left off the Warriors’ roster for the 2018 postseason, during which the team won the NBA Finals, but later received a championship ring.

He last played for the Grizzlies, but was released before the end of the season due to injury.

He averaged 7.9 points and four rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game.

Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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