September 3, 2014

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Scott: Cavs need more ‘pit bulls’ like Casspi

CLEVELAND — Cavaliers coach Byron Scott thinks Omri Casspi is a dog.
The way Scott tells it, the 23-year-old Casspi, who had nine points and two assists Sunday as the Gold team beat the Wine 67-57 in a 36-minute scrimmage at Quicken Loans Arena, is bringing a pit bull approach to the Cavs.

“We don’t need Chihuahuas,” Scott said. “We don’t need poodles. We don’t need German shepherds. We need pit bulls, and it’s good if you have a few of them. I think he is one of them. If you have a bunch of Chihuahuas, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Casspi, acquired along with a lottery-protected first-round pick from Sacramento in exchange for J.J. Hickson, didn’t play Friday in Cleveland’s 91-87 preseason win in Detroit due to a sore knee, but the native of Israel was back on the floor at The Q, where 7,836 fans attended the free scrimmage.
Slated to be the Cavs’ starting small forward, the third-year pro wasted no time making a good first impression, throwing down two first-quarter dunks on lobs from No. 1 overall draft pick Kyrie Irving.

“He’s just an intense competitor,” Scott said of Casspi. “I like that about him.”
That approach is something sorely needed by a Cleveland team that went 19-63 last season. The 2010-11 Cavs went down without much of a fight in many of those losses, causing Scott to rank them “between the German shepherd and the large poodle.”

Along with Irving and No. 4 overall pick Tristan Thompson, Casspi is helping change that.

“I try to compete all the time,” he said. “I try to play tough, hard, always aggressive.”

Casspi, who looks taller and heavier than his listed 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, averaged 10.3 points two seasons ago as a rookie, but dipped to 8.6 last season. He played in 71 games for the Kings in 2010-11, starting 27, and also averaged 4.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists.

Considered a stand-still 3-point specialist by many, Casspi has above-average leaping ability and athleticism, which should make him a solid defensive player.

“He’s a little more athletic than people think,” Scott said. “He gets up and down the floor and moves very well. … I love what I saw in him today.”
Irving, who had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, six rebounds, nine assists and a block for the Gold team, and Thompson, who had 12 points, six boards and two rejections for the Wine, also looked impressive.

“Both of them are a little ahead of schedule,” Scott said.

At least three of Irving’s assists were lob passes that resulted in dunks, but the 19-year-old also matched the five turnovers he had Friday in Detroit.
“It’s just a basketball play,” Irving said of his alley-oops. “I’ve been throwing lobs since I can remember. Even in eighth grade when no one could dunk, I was throwing them.”

The left-handed Thompson, whose wingspan is 7-4, has been throwing them down just as long. The 20-year-old isn’t very polished offensively, but he’s active and can jump, which should result in a decent amount of garbage points.

“That’s what I’m going to hang my hat on,” he said. “I’m going to try to stay aggressive.”

Thompson shot just .487 at the line as a Texas freshman and has no jumper to speak of at the moment, but Scott thinks the rookie can develop into a very good offensive player.

“Can we throw him the ball in the post? Yeah,” Scott said. “He can make shots from that position. He’s got a wonderful right-hand and left-hand jump hook.
“His problem is obviously 15 feet and out. That’s something he’s working on on a day-to-day basis. He’s getting better. In the long run, his offense is going to be tremendous. Right now, he’s still learning.”

Big Z

Former Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who retired as a player after spending last season with Miami, was in attendance with wife Jennifer and their two adopted sons. Ilgauskas said he hasn’t talked to the Cavs about a job in the organization.

“It’s a transition period in my life,” he said. “It’s the first time in a long time I won’t be playing. I’ll keep my options open.”

Tip-ins

The Cavs waived forwards Tyrell Biggs and Kyle Goldcamp, reducing their roster to 17. Invitees Mychel Thompson and Kenny Hayes are the non-roster players in camp.

• Everyone played in the scrimmage except for guard Manny Harris (foot) and center Semih Erden (thumb).

• Former Cavs guard Baron Davis is on the verge of signing with the New York Knicks, according to multiple reports.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.