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For Omri Casspi, more wins with Warriors easily trumps more money

Warriors free agent signee Omri Casspi poses with his new uniform at the team’s practice facility (Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND – As a player who sacrificed a small fortune to sign with the Golden State Warriors, Omri Casspi still can’t believe his good fortune.

According to an ESPN report, the 29-year-old sharpshooting forward passed up a one-year offer of $4.5 million from an undisclosed lottery team to play for the Warriors at the veteran minimum of $2.1 million. That’s right, less than half the money he could have gotten elsewhere.

But winning is a powerful allure, and Casspi yearns to experience it. Even though he was a product of the same draft class as Stephen Curry in 2009 (23rd overall pick), he has never taken part in an NBA playoff game. An eight-year vet who has played in 499 regular-season games, he has never been part of a winning team.

So when the Warriors came calling to express their interest, it was a pretty easy call for Casspi to accept despite the money disparity.

“One thing me and my agent talked about was being part of this organization’s culture and win,” said Casspi. “I’m happy to have the opportunity here.”

Casspi made a brief stop-off at the Warriors’ practice facility Wednesday before heading back to his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he is preparing to play for his country’s national team in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament in early September (opening against Georgia, and his new Warriors teammate Zaza Pachulia).

He said that the very notion that the Warriors reached out to express interest him overwhelmed him a bit. He was similarly stunned to get a congratulatory call from Kevin Durant once he did sign.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was very flattered, obviously,” he said. “This good of organization and culture and team gives you confidence when they’re looking at you and want you to be part of this. You can’t overlook that. From the moment they called, this is where my heart wanted to be, and I’m happy we made that decision.”

That decision apparently went over quite well in Israel, too.

“The country was going crazy, I know that,” Casspi said. “The Warriors are like rock stars there in a sense, so the people are really excited and I’m really excited. I feel like it’s going to be a great fit and I can’t wait to start.”

The Warriors, to be sure, hope to tap into the Casspi talent that electrified Oracle Arena two seasons ago in a Dec. 28, 2015 game against the Sacramento Kings. Casspi made 13 of 18 shots in a 36-point performance, including 9 of 12 3-point attempts. He wasn’t just toeing the line, either. Many of his long-range shots were unleashed from well beyond the arc, and even with Andre Iguodala guarding him much of the time, the Warriors were at a loss to stop him, even though Golden State still won handily thanks to a Curry triple-double performance.

“It was fun, it was one of those moments that doesn’t happen often, that you make shots and then you have a guy like Steph coming right back and doing it even better,” he said. “It was definitely a night to remember, and I hope to relive it back again.”

Casspi said one of the reasons he was able to deliver that kind of game is that he flourished playing under then-Kings coach George Karl’s system.

“He really emphasized running and shooting and stuff like that,” he said. “You get more opportunities to shoot when you play at a fast pace, and it kind of fits my game.”

But Casspi’s tenure in Sacramento turned sour when Karl was fired and the Kings went to a more deliberate style under new coach Dave Joerger. He saw his playing time cut, and then had bouts with illness and a foot injury. Ultimately, he was packaged with center DeMarcus Cousins in a trade to New Orleans, and subsequently waived by the Pelicans when he fractured his right thumb in his first game. He hooked on with Minnesota a month later and finished out the season, but saw no future there, either. For the year, he played in just 36 games with three teams and averaged a mere 5.2 points.

“Every time I felt like I was getting into a rhythm, something would happen,” he said. “It never happened to me before in my career and hopefully it’ll never happen again.”

Casspi added that he has a chip on his shoulder to prove the kind of player he can be off the bench, and he believes the Warriors’ system is the perfect ticket to his rebirth.

“I believe this team plays in a way that really fits my game,” he said. “Going into free agency, this was one of the things I looked at. I want to run, I want to shoot 3s. I want to do whatever it takes to help – play tough defense, shoot open shots, move the ball from side to side … just do the stuff I do.”