The preseason is a chance to make an impression that will carry over into the regular season – if you get a chance to play.
Omri Casspi didn’t get that chance in the Kings’ preseason debut, a loss to the Toronto Raptors in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sunday. He played just seven minutes – all in the fourth quarter – hardly enough time to establish any kind of flow.
Kings coach Michael Malone made a point to give Casspi extended playing time Tuesday night, and the forward made the kind of impact the Kings are seeking.
Casspi was part of the second unit that helped the Kings to a 113-106 exhibition win over the Raptors at Sleep Train Arena. In 26 minutes, he totaled 15 points, six rebounds and two assists.
“The first game up in Vancouver was tough on Omri,” Malone said. “I played Derrick (Williams) in the first half, and I tried to play him in the second. I wanted to give him a true look, he’s had a very good camp so far.”
Casspi did the things the Kings want from him. He ran the floor at every opportunity, scored efficiently and provided a spark.
“I know what I need to do,” Casspi said. “I didn’t get a real chance last game, and I was trying to be ready and do what I needed to do to help the team win. And one of the things is to come off the bench and run and create shots for others, rebound and bring that energy off the bench.”
To give Casspi a fair look, Williams, who backed up Rudy Gay last season, did not play Tuesday.
Casspi was a first-round pick of the Kings in 2009 and was traded to Cleveland after two seasons. They brought him back this offseason in their quest for more players who can fit their plan to play at a faster pace.
Casspi can play small or power forward but could seize minutes as Gay’s primary backup with more efforts like Tuesday’s.
“High IQ basketball player, has a very good feel, knows how to play,” Malone said. “Can handle, can attack. And you saw when he was on the floor, we probably had some of our better possessions of ball movement, and he was a big part of that.
“Omri did a very good job for us tonight.”
Casspi was eager to return to Sacramento after playing for Houston last season. When he was traded, the Kings’ possible relocation was a bigger topic than the play on the court, which was often bad.
After being with a playoff team in Houston, Casspi wants to see Sacramento take steps toward the postseason.
“Going into practice every day with the mentality of winning and working hard,” Casspi said. “We have a talented group, and I feel we can be a playoff team. But it’s going to take a lot of hard work, sacrifice from one another, sharing the ball and moving the ball, running.”
DeMarcus Cousins led the Kings with 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting and 12 rebounds in only 17 minutes. Rookie Nik Stauskas added 13 points.
Jason Thompson built on what has been called a solid training camp by coaches and teammates. He supplied 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Malone changed three of his starters for Tuesday’s game. Cousins and Gay were at their customary center and small forward spots, respectively.
Ramon Sessions started at point guard instead of Darren Collison. Stauskas replaced Ben McLemore at shooting guard, and Reggie Evans started at power forward instead of Thompson.
Collison finished with 10 points and five assists in 25 minutes. Sessions had six points and six assists in 24 minutes. McLemore scored 12 points.
Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 25 points and six assists. DeMar DeRozan contributed 23 points for the Raptors, a performance that particularly irked Malone.
The Raptors shot 48.8 percent, too good for Malone’s liking. The Kings shot 55.2 percent.