Israeli NBA star will miss basketball World Cup

Golden State Warriors player Omri Casspi disappointed that he cannot join Team Israel.  

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

Omri Casspi will try to keep up with his Israeli teammates when they open qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup this week.

That’s all he can do, because basketball’s best players are stuck on the sidelines in the new format.

“It’s kind of weird, obviously,” the Golden State forward said. “No NBA, no Euroleague playing in these qualifications. Kind of taking away from the fun of the game, in a sense.”

FIBA, basketball’s governing body, changed its qualification system starting this year so fans could see their national teams play at home. Instead of regional qualifying tournaments, teams will now play home-and-away games against regional rivals, similar to the system used by international soccer. The first window of games is at the end of this week, and the next comes in February.

Casspi is Israel’s first NBA player and he is currently in his 9th season, playing for his sixth team.  He regularly plays for Team Israel in international competition and comes home during the off-season.  Casspi has also been an unofficial spokesman of goodwill for Israel and has brought teammates to the country and showed them the sites.

The 29-year old Israel-born player is doing well for the the defending NBA champion Warriors.  Last week Casspi got into the starting lineup replacing the injured Kevin Durant.

NBA players would be able to play in the pair of two-game windows next summer, but their teams might already be behind. Casspi thinks FIBA will eventually change the format, but for now hopes his Israeli teammates can get by without him.

“It’ll be hard to see the guys going and battling without being there, but that’s part of the game,” he said.