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Most valuable reserve: Casspi emerges as bench standout

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Omri Casspi says his job on the Warriors is easy, because his teammates help him score easy baskets. He scored 12 points on seven shots in Golden State’s win over Memphis on Wednesday. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)
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OAKLAND — Late in the second quarter on Wednesday night, Omri Casspi slipped through the lane, rose into the air and banked in a layup.

As the understated Israeli forward hustled back down the floor, the Golden State Warriors’ lead ballooning to 10, the video screens that hang high above center court caught a smile sneaking across Casspi’s face.

Three months into his Warriors’ tenure, Casspi — who’s become a fixture alongside David West on the second unit that frequently dominates the second quarter — has been doing a lot of smiling.

“It’s fun. The system is great. The guys are great [and] they’re making my job easy,” Casspi said before the 97-84 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. “So, I’m enjoying every second.”

Now in his ninth NBA season, Casspi said playing under head coach Steve Kerr is pretty great too.

“I love it.”

And Kerr loves the way Casspi cuts.

“Some guys see the game better than others,” Kerr explained. “Omri sees the game beautifully.”

Against the Grizzlies, Casspi scored 12 points grabbed six rebounds and finished plus-14.

“He’ll maybe dance behind his guy,” Kerr added. “His guy will look at him and as soon as the guy turns his head back, Omri’s gone.”

Klay Thompson agreed with his coach, saying Casspi has a knack for knowing when his defender turns his head.

His teammate and coach were forthcoming but Casspi wasn’t interested in divulging his tricks.

“I can’t tell you guys all my secrets,” Casspi said with a laugh. “The next game I’m going to have my man looking at me the whole time.”

For the forward, who’s gone from a trio of DNPs in the first five games to an entrenched role in the rotation, every move on the court has a purpose. He’s ultra-efficient. Nothing’s wasted.

Casspi’s field goal percentage sits at 59.8 — up 15 points from his career average. Over the past four games, a stretch that has included a pair of double doubles, Casspi’s shooting 67.7 percent from the field.

Playing on a veteran’s minimum of $2.1 million, Casspi has emerged as the most valuable Warriors on a dollar-by-dollar basis — and as an enviable luxury for Kerr, who has had to navigate the club through a sea of injuries.

When J.B Bickerstaff, the Grizzlies interim coach, was asked if it’s almost unfair that the reigning champs can call on such an effective and affordably priced backup, he emitted a noise that was somewhere between a scoff and a laugh.

“I guess it is,” Bickerstaff said.

“You could not play him for two weeks and the third week he’s going to come back and play just as hard and be just as effective,” Bickerstaff said.

Whatever his role is on a given night, Casspi’s remains focused on delivering when Kerr calls his number.

“That’s what the game is all about,” he said, “being ready and having that trust from the coaches that they know they can count on you to come in whenever and do my job.”

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