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July 25, 2011 10:12 am

Trade Brings Omri Casspi To Cleveland

avatar by Levi Epstein

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Omri Casspi playing for Israel against Finland at Barona Arena in Espoo, Finland. Photo: Jaripk.

Omri Casspi, the Sacramento Kings’, 23-year-old Israeli-born small forward, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for power forward J.J. Hickson. The swap deal took place just prior to an impending league lockout, which went into effect back on Friday July 1 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.

Casspi, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv star, had been much sought after by a number of other NBA teams who saw him as a potential star-quality player. He is known for his exceptional defensive capabilities, energy and underrated perimeter shooting, which he displayed during his two outstanding seasons with Sacramento, where he averaged 9.5 points per game, as well as 4.4 rebounds.

“We like Casspi,” said Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant. “He’s a tough, athletic, 6-foot-9 kid, whose got nastiness and fight about him.”

“It gives us a chance to give the guys on the team room to grow on the court together and gives our roster more balance financially moving forward,” Grant added. “I felt that, where our team is, and where it’s headed, that this was the right move for our franchise.”

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Now entering his third year in the league Omri Casspi is the first Israeli-born national to play in the NBA and has shown himself to be a real asset to the league.

In Cleveland a thrilled Jewish community awaits Omri’s arrival. Anita Gray, a Cavs fan from Bratenahl, Ohio, and a Jewish community leader, predicts a new Jewish cheering section at The Q (Quicken Loans Arena).

“People are going to be thrilled,” she said. “Many of us have affiliations with Israel,” she explained. “My kids are there right now. We’ve got ties back and forth. It’s exciting. We’ve never had an Israeli basketball player here before.”

When asked if he had plans to be in contact with the Jewish Community Centre in Cleveland, Casspi answered, “Obviously, I want to be a big part of the JCC, as I’ve been in Sacramento and other areas of the United States. . .  I just can’t wait to come to Cleveland and get to know my teammates, the organization — obviously, the lockout changes things up– but just get to know the city and the fans.”

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