Originally written February 19, 2012 on Fox Sports Ohio:
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Omri Casspi may not exactly be lighting it up for the Cavaliers (far from it), but you can say this much with a certain degree of confidence: Casspi is playing better than J.J. Hickson. You remember Hickson, dont you? Hes the 6-foot-9 power forward who spent the first three years of his NBA career in Cleveland. He was considered young and athletic with a huge upside and someone who occasionally frustrated coaches and teammates alike. J.J. could be great if he ever finally gets it, were words often spoken inside the locker room. The Cavs finally gave up on him in July, when Hickson was traded to Sacramento for Casspi (and a conditional first-round draft pick). Casspi was solid during his first two seasons in Sacramento, but has struggled mightily in Cleveland. Hes appeared unsure of himself and been shaky on the court. Not long ago, he admitted hes thinking too much instead of just playing -- and it shows. Too often, Casspi wears the confused look of a man whos been standing in the rain for hours, only to learn hes at the wrong bus stop. But again, as much as Casspi has struggled with the Cavs, Hickson has been every bit as bad with the Kings. And maybe even worse. Entering Sundays game at The Q (6 p.m., FOX Sports Ohio), Hickson was coming off the bench and averaging a mere 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. His scoring is at its lowest since his rookie year, and his playing time has been sporadic. Bad news for Hickson, who is a restricted free agent at the end of the season. And bad news for the Kings, who were hoping Hickson would make a splash in the frountcourt alongside talented center DeMarcus Cousins. Instead, Hickson is coming off the bench at power forward behind Jason Thompson. Hes been nothing like they hoped when they made the deal, one Western Conference GM said of Hickson. If the Kings knew it would be like this, they never would have made the deal. The Cavs probably still would, but the Kings sure wouldnt. Theyd like to have that one back. While Hickson is far from a bad guy, he sometimes butted heads with Cavs coach Byron Scott during the train wreck that was the Cavs 2010-11 season. Not in a nasty way, but in a way that was enough to irritate the man in charge. Thats never a good thing. Scott said he didnt have a problem with Hickson, that toward the latter part of the season, our relationship was pretty good. Still, Scott thinks the trade for Casspi has worked out in the Cavs favor. In a lot of situations like this, when you get a new player and hes in a new system, sometimes it takes six months to a year before he finally adjusts, Scott said. I think thats still where Omri is with us. The Cavs also feel Casspi offers them stability at the small forward position, and they are content with how hes playing. Not thrilled mind you. But yes, theyre content. Thats because they are willing to be patient with him, hoping that some day he turns the corner. Plus, hes a kid who just wants to work hard and just wants to get better, Scott said. So from our standpoint, (the trade) worked out well. And like I said when we made the trade, we wish J.J. all the best. Bottom line: Casspi may not be the answer at small forward for the Cavs long-term. He may not make fans very happy today. But hes been a better fit with this unit than Hickson would be, and right now, thats all that really matters. Cavs Notes The Cavs feel that, everything else being equal, the conditional draft pick tips the Hickson-Casspi trade in their favor. Here is the deal with the pick: Its lottery-protected this year, then protected in 2013 (1-13), in 2014 (1-12) and 2015 and 16 (1-10). In 2017, it becomes a second-rounder. Basically, the Kings would have to stink for a stretch that would place them in NBA infamy for the pick NOT to turn into a first-rounder for the Cavs. Its possible the Kings could be so bad for so long, but it sure seems unlikely. Casspi said I dont know when asked how he feels the trade has worked out and that conclusions should be reserved for the end of the season. I think both of us are trying to find our way with our new teams, he said. Shooting guard Anthony Parker (back) is out for the Cavs for Sundays game. Scott said Parker may not return until after the All-Star break next weekend. He got some shooting in (at practice) and is doing some court work, but I still think hes still a little ways away, Scott said. Meanwhile, guard Daniel Gibson (ankle) is questionable. Center Semih Erden (wrist) is expected to play, and start.
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