INDEPENDENCE: On his way out of town after last season, Omri Casspi made it a point to tell both Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott that it was the first time he actually learned the game of basketball.
It was a stunning confession from a third-year NBA player, but Casspi explained there wasn’t much structure when he played overseas. Apparently there wasn’t any structure with the Sacramento Kings, either, with whom Casspi played his first two years in the league.
Whatever the reason, Casspi struggled through a miserable first season with the Cavaliers. His numbers dropped in nearly every category, he lost his starting job, and Scott blasted him near the end of the season for still not knowing the playbook.
Casspi conceded at the end of the season that he didn’t play the way he wanted. Now that a new year has started, he doesn’t want to dwell on the past.
“I don’t want to talk about last year anymore,” Casspi said at the start of training camp. “I’ve been in the mud for a long time, and I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
He has already started cleaning himself off. He appeared rejuvenated through the first week of camp and scored nine points in the Wine and Gold scrimmage Saturday.
But his comeback actually began over the summer, when he averaged 19.5 points and 5.1 rebounds for the Israeli national team. He shot 66 percent from the floor and made 25-of-48 3-pointers. It was an amazing turnaround for a player who shot 40 percent last season and 31 percent on 3-pointers.
“We had a long talk after the season, and he was very disappointed in the way he played,” Scott said. “I know he’s a much better basketball player than that, so I’m expecting him to come back and play much better this year.”
Casspi, 24, said he needed to spend the summer at home to clear his head after such a grueling season. Back in front of friends and family, his game started coming back to him.
“I lost a lot of confidence last year,” he said. “I wasn’t myself. It gave me a lot of confidence. Now it’s time to bring it here to the court.”
The Cavs closely monitored the 6-foot-9 small forward’s work over the summer, and Scott kept getting reports of how well he was playing.
“I was very happy about that. That was one of the first things I told him when I saw him, ‘It was great to see you over there playing as well as you played,’ ” Scott said. “Now he has a year under his belt, he has a better understanding of what we’re trying to do on both ends of the court. I think that will help him.”
The Cavaliers host Montepaschi Siena tonight in the preseason opener. Scott wasn’t happy when he reviewed the film of the Saturday scrimmage because he thought guys were taking possessions off.
He pointed that out to them in a 45-minute film session Sunday.
“The way we want to play this year, we can’t do that,” he said.
The starters are expected to play about 20 to 24 minutes, and only a few players will come off the bench and play about 17 minutes. Those who don’t play today will play in the preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday in Canton.
Defense, particularly defending pick-and-rolls, will be a priority through these first two games. There is a chance the Cavs could make some roster cuts after the game Tuesday.
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.