That 10-hour time difference from Sacramento to Tel Aviv complicates matters, but after days of playing phone tag, I finally heard back from Omri Casspi a short while ago. The Kings second-year forward is playing for the Israeli national team in the 2011 European Championship pre-qualifying tournament, and as of today, helping with final preparations for his brother's (Eitan) wedding. Jason Thompson and Kings strength/conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro are among the 600 invited guests for this evening's festivities in Tel Aviv. According to Casspi, Shapiro, who is also Jewish, had not been to Israel since he was six months old.
"It's been pretty incredible," said Casspi. "JT and Daniel were on the same flight. They arrived just before our (national team) game Tuesday night against Italy, so they got to see what it was like playing in these international games. The building (Nokia Arena, home of Maccabi Tel Aviv) was packed, like it's never been before. It was crazy, wild. JT was a famous person. Everybody wanted his autograph and photos. But we lost the game, and I felt terrible afterward. We are deep in the mud now - we have to win next Monday in Latvia, or we're out of the competition. We lost a couple games we had no business losing. Now, it's going to be really hard to advance for next summer."
Casspi, who leaves Sunday for Latvia, is arranging private tours of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea for his two Kings companions. "JT is really interested in the history," he added, speaking in the wee hours, "so that's been great. Shippy (Shapiro) is working him out today at the (Nokia) arena. He's in great shape. I'm so happy they're here. I love those guys ...."