The way perimeter guys have greatly improved over the course of the season has been fun to watch. In the summer league, Casspi almost looked like a guy who was destined for the D-League for a while, but he got in shape and put his game together. So just to watch his growth from July to where he is now has been really something.
The funniest story about him is, we’re in Phoenix in the preseason and (Amar’e) Stoudemire is going off. So Casspi goes up to Westphal, and says, “let me take him.” I think Paul laughed it off, but I asked Casspi after the game, and he was serious about it and was disappointed [Westphal] wouldn’t let him do it. He had no idea what was so funny and didn’t get what the big deal was. You've got a guy who's 6' 9", maybe 210 pounds defending a guy who's so much bigger than him. I think that epitomized how competitive he is and that he'd make an impact this season.
Donté is another guy who’s really embraced a new role. He was a guy who was challenged by Mario Elie, who’s an assistant coach, to become a defensive player, and for a young guy who came into the league as an offensive player, it’s hard to change that mindset. He can still score, but they’ve put him on pretty much every tough cover possible and he’s stood up to the task.
The Kevin Martin trade rumors have obviously been rampant as the trade deadline approaches. Do you expect him to be dealt, and if not, are Martin and Evans the backcourt of the future?
I don’t [expect a trade] — I think it would have to be a deal that really blows you away and you can’t say no to. To me, a deal like that would have to be one where you’re getting one of the premier young bigs in the league, but I don’t see anyone parting with a guy like that.
Considering how many games Kevin missed, I think you need to have an idea of what you’re working with and let them play out the season. The record with him in the lineup is really low, but at this point, you really don’t know how they’ll play together in the long run. When Kevin wasn’t there, this team was a lot different. At that point, Casspi wasn’t much of a factor, Donté wasn’t doing a whole lot, and no one really knew what these guys could do. Now, these guys established an identity, so it’s not just them adjusting to Kevin – Kevin has to learn how play with these guys who now have a new found confidence.