By Eurohoops team/ email@example.com
Deni Avdija is the big Israeli hope for having a true NBA star, and Omri Casspi, the most successful Israeli player in the NBA history, hosted him on his new podcast, which aired last Thursday.
The conversation between the two Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv was in Hebrew, and here are the most important parts.
On moving to the States
Avdija: “This whole Draft, as well as thinking about the biggest basketball league today in the world, is great, but I have to tell you it’s also hard on the other hand. I am thinking about home. I mean, I grew up here (ed.note: in Israel). My friends are here, my family is here, and I know the country. Suddenly moving to a foreign country, it’s tough to adjust. It’s something you look at and fear. It is great, but I always worry sometimes”.
Casspi: “I was drafted in 2009, and at that time, my brother – I was 21, and my brother was older than me – and he put his life on hold and told me that he would fully support me. He was with me for the first two or three years. Coming to the US, finding an apartment, coming home from training. Does your family plan to come with you, or do you plan to move alone?”
Avdija: “Yes, my family is planning, but it’s different. It’s a dream, a blessing you’ve received that you have a brother who cares for you, and he is like that with you. I will move with my parents. In the first year, to adapt, it is crucial to have a family member by my side even during the difficult moments. Until the adjustment. “
Casspi: “What are you waiting for most? I remember from the first year the first practice, the first game, the first game against LeBron James or Kobe, who was the biggest star back then. In these places, it was fun to go through this experience”.
Avdija: “These are things you imagine, and you don’t believe they will happen. I think I will remember the first practices. As you said, I think you remember the first things you try.”
On Avdija’s European experience
Casspi: “And when you get up to a Euroleague game with Maccabi, there is tension?”
Avdija: “Sure. That tension makes you get better things out of yourself. Usually, you will score higher percentages than in practice. Thinking of me looking back is one of the more difficult things”.
Casspi: “More on the mental side. I look at players like LeBron, Steph, Clay, James Harden; these are top-notch businessmen who are under pressure unparalleled in any profession. How are you going to deal with this intensity on a personal level, after a good game or after a bad game?”
Avdija: “I know it’s not comparable, but I think I’ve experienced a lot of things that other players in the Draft haven’t experienced. I’ve experienced being with people at the highest levels; I’ve experienced being with professionals and fighting against them”.
Casspi: “Very true.”
Avdija: “I didn’t always survive it, but I enjoyed it. Also, I knew that if I had a bad game, then in the next game, I would have fewer minutes. These crises, I experienced them. I think it comes with adulthood, to take it less seriously and to see the other players dealing with it”.
For the upcoming Draft
Casspi: “When they talk about your Draft and say it’s a bad draft, it’s complete nonsense. When I arrived in 2009, they said our Draft was the weakest. “It’s Omri’s chance of being selected in the first round because the draft is bad.” You look back and see Blake Griffin first, James Harden third, Tyreke Evans fourth, Ricky Rubio fifth, Steph Curry seventh, DeMar DeRozan ninth. Guys who became ultra-stars. There were also Jrue Holiday, Darren Collison, and Brandon Jennings. I say that if you are on the top, that’s how you should look at it; that’s what I do at least”.
Avdija: “True, you can’t know what will happen either. There are so many factors that affect a player – a team, a coach, potential”.
Casspi: “That’s what we had, by the way. Steph Curry, in the first year, if I’m not mistaken, had 10-11 points on average per game. Tyreke Evans exploded with 20 in his first year. Today you see players coming into the league, not knowing if they will respond, but suddenly in the second and third year … What Doncic, no other big star, was able to make. Only Blake was similar to his second year”.
Avdija: “Interesting, you understand that more than I do. Every player has his own pace of development. I don’t like to compare drafts and players. Everyone in this league has some ability; something people have seen that it’s good and suitable for this league.”
On Israeli media and expectation
Casspi: “How are you dealing with all the media echo around you? The whole country is talking about you, and this will grow more and more as we get closer to the Draft, after the Draft and in the first and second year. How do you Danny deal with all this?”
Avdija: “At first, it was hard. At first, I took everything to heart. Every little bit and what people wrote about me, I took to heart. I understood, however, that no matter what they wrote about me, I should also showcase my abilities. “The best player in the world.” So should I believe it? And what if the next day they say I’m the worst player in the world?”.
Casspi: “When the media asked me, I answered that I liked what you said when you are younger. A boy comes and says, “I want to be the best I can be. Omri, I respect him, and he is okay.” A child comes and tells the truth. You may be more or less politically correct, but you ended up saying, “I want to be the best I can.” I like this. They asked me, and I said, “Guys, what do you want from him?” A boy comes and says he wants to be better than me”. It’s natural, we’re athletes, competitors and want to be the best. Want to get somewhere in our career. I’m glad you’re saying this, and I also wish you to become better. God forbid, I will be angry with you if you don’t be better than me. I also want you to be better and think you have the potential to be better. So I’m glad you said that. Go with your truth, that’s something good. Push yourself to be the best you can be”.
On Avdija NBA role and the Doncic comparison
Avdija: “I did not receive any gifts. I had to work very hard to get the things I wanted. Even playing some minutes in Maccabi. They will not give 20 minutes a game to a child, except maybe for the great Luka Doncic. I saw Luka two years before that. We weren’t in the same situation, at the same level, and with the same coach, but I saw him and asked ‘why it can’t happen to me too.’ You have to be strong and deal with this like a grown-up. To come, pick yourself up, get minutes, and be an essential part of the rotation. For me, just being on the court with the senior team was something tremendous”.
Casspi: “I think a better team couldn’t have chosen Luka. Rick Carlisle is the right coach for him. He was made a starter, and he continues what he did in Madrid. Mark Cuban as the owner, Dirk Nowitzki, as a retired veteran, and they want to get him involved. It’s like a perfect script for him”.
Avdija: “You can agree with me or not. I think he was also lucky in his career, besides being a tremendous player.”
Casspi: “He was lucky, and he took the opportunity. Making 30 points in the league is not something that just happens”.