On Thursday night, when NBA Commissioner David Stern approached the podium to announce the first-round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings, he paused. Normally, this might mean that the Teaneck, New Jersey, native/Columbia University Law School alum (you get the picture) was preparing to explain a complicated trade, but this time–I’d like to think–it was because the Kings had selected 21-year-old Omri Casspi, a 6’9′ forward from Israel. This is not the first time an Israeli player has been drafted by an NBA team, but it is likely the first time that one will earn a spot on an NBA roster–that is, if Casspi can keep his overbearing parents out of the picture. This is no joke.
According to CBSSportsline:
"After a stellar junior competition career, Casspi joined the parent Maccabi Tel Aviv club for 2007-08 competition, but had a rocky relationship with team management. Casspi’s family had sought his release from his contract due to erratic playing time afforded him by the team’s new coach, Omar Katash. Casspi’s father openly criticized management for the way they were using his son. After a meeting of the minds, the small forward began seeing more consistent playing time before he announced his intentions to leave Israel to play in the NBA in 2008. In an interview with Walla!Sport, Shimon Casspi [Omri’s father] asked for his son to get released from Maccabi Tel Aviv. The pressure move by Shimon Casspi not only pressured Zvi Sherf, he also approached David Federman who is the chairman of Maccabi’s Main Sponsor Elite and also Vice Chairman of the Maccabi Tel Aviv board."
"Immediately after Katash’s appointment as Maccabi coach, Omri’s parents wanted him to play at Bnei Hasharon, but Maccabi Tel Aviv chairman Shimon Mizrahi insisted on keeping the player another two years as per his contract. The two sides agreed that if Casspi wouldn’t be among the top eight in the rotation, he would be released from his contract at season’s end. Maccabi didn’t feel a need to respond to Casspi’s father and rarely did."
Allen Iverson may currently have the NBA’s most unsavory posse, but now that Casspi & Co. are headed to Sacramento, he may get a run for his money.