SACRAMENTO, CALIF.: Byron Scott and Omri Casspi share a special bond with this city on the verge of losing its NBA franchise. Scott’s first coaching gig was as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings and it was also Casspi’s first franchise. He has friends, both within the team and community, who welcomed him to America and introduced him to the United States when he first came from Israel.
As a result, both have deep feelings over the potential sale and move of the franchise to Seattle.
“This city deserves a team,” Casspi said. “They have a great fan base. It will be a very sad day for me and the NBA if this team is not going to be here anymore.”
Casspi played two seasons with the Kings before he was traded to the Cavaliers for J.J. Hickson and a heavily protected first-round pick. His road in Cleveland has been bumpy; he has fallen out of the rotation and out of favor with fans who expected him to be the starting small forward for years to come.
But he remains beloved in Sacramento, where more than 150 members of the Jewish community met with Casspi for a Q&A inside Sleep Train Arena about an hour before the game.
When it was over, Casspi waived to the crowd and told them how much he missed them as they frantically snapped pictures with cellphones and cameras.
The man who sang the national anthem prior to the game even wore an old Kings No. 18 Casspi jersey.
“A lot of great memories,” Casspi said. “Just happy to be back. It’s fun.”
Following a late flight Sunday night, Casspi arrived at the arena with Daniel Gibson around 8:45 a.m. to get some shots up and get in extra work. He didn’t have much time during the day to visit with old friends, but planned to do so after the game since the Cavaliers were staying over before departing for Portland, Ore., this afternoon.
“I have so many friends who welcomed me to the United States, not only to Sacramento,” Casspi said. “It was a great experience.”
Scott’s first coaching gig was as an assistant on the Kings under Rick Adelman. Those teams were some of the best in the Western Conference, so Scott experienced the best days in Kings history.
“I had great memories here as a coach,” he said. “As a coach in the two years I was here, it was two of the best years I ever had. The fans were unbelievable. Getting to learn from Rick Adelman was a true blessing.
“I have nothing but fond memories of Sacramento.”
That’s a far different response from Scott than when the Nets left New Jersey after last season. No matter how many times Scott was asked in so many different ways, he made it clear he had no strong feelings for the area — despite it being his first head coaching gig and the franchise he led to consecutive NBA Finals appearances.
“I have nothing but fond memories of Sacramento and I always will,” he said. “If this is the last game, it’s going to be sad because this is a great basketball city. The fans were great. But I’ve always thought over the last few years that Seattle would get another team. It’s just too great of a city not to. I just didn’t think it would be a Sacramento team leaving.”
The Cavs forced 22 turnovers in each of the first two stops on this five-game West Coast trip. … The Cavs are off today and will face the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. … After struggling to shoot free throws early in the season, the Cavs are shooting .816 from the line (151 of 185) since Dec. 28.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.