Hours after landing the
overrated much coveted Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets further bulked up their roster by snagging Israeli forward Omri Casspi, who’d been released by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Once the reported two-year deal is signed, Casspi will have gone from Sacramento and Cleveland–veritable Siberias of their respective conferences–to a team now widely considered to be a championship contender.
Casspi brings size, versatility as a combo forward, good defense, and energy to the squad. Those looking for symbolism in the signing will have plenty to chew over. Casspi’s exodus from life as a King to a Cavalier to a Rocket in some ways resembles the history of Israel. The property of monarchs and noblemen for centuries, the land of Israel–like Houston–is a product of a 19th-century ideology and remains known for its technology, hot weather, a specific brand of Texasy-defiance and a strong belief in the right of self-defense.
Texas also won its own war of independence with Mexico in 1836, led by its future first president Sam Houston. Like Casspi’s hometown of Holon, which was on the front line for the battle for Israeli independence, Houston is an industrial port city that was on the front lines of Texas’ battle for nationhood, most notably for the Battle of San Jacinto, which all but won freedom for Texas.
I called a Houstonian to gauge the mood about the signing of Casspi:
“I’m very excited,” my mother said. “It might even get me to go to a game.”
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.