Magic Johnson, Russell Westbrook, and Derrick Rose were among a group of NBA superstars set to travel to Israel to support a basketball team co-owned by Amare Stoudemire — but TMZ Sports has learned the trip’s been 86’d due to the Gaza conflict. Our sources in the Holy Land tell us the legion of NBA talent — which also included Robin and Brook Lopez and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin — was going to attend the opening of a new arena in Jerusalem on September 4.
David Blatt: It’s not easy for me when I’m constantly thinking about what’s happening in Israel. My two older daughters happen to be on their global post-army service tour, my son is overseas playing in in the European Youth Basketball Championship, and my youngest daughter is also out of the country for a few days. They’re all returning to Israel, though, and I’m planning on seeing them again at the beginning of August. I had a plane ticket with Delta Airlines, but I changed to El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) as soon as Delta canceled its flights to Israel.”
Do you support the operation? David Blatt: “Absolutely. In my opinion, this war is Israel’s most justified war I can remember in recent years. I’m really sorry about what’s happening in Gaza, but there’s no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all, and we can live in peace.” Do you feel support for Israel in the US? David Blatt: “There’s support, although sometimes it’s not enough. In my opinion, though, there’s more support this time than before.”
“We were talking again today about (how) much different it felt back then,” Casspi said. “Dwight (Howard) all the time talked about coming to visit me in Israel. J.T. (Jason Thompson) came over and had a great time. Then, two years ago, Yavne started getting hit a lot. Now we are in the middle of this, and it’s so hard to see, it’s heartbreaking. Kids dying in their parents’ arms? I think of the people in Gaza … they think Jewish people are monsters with three heads. But Hamas is using humans as shields and building tunnels under people’s houses. What do we do?”
Howard, who has the same agent as Casspi, appeared to start the mini-controversy with a #FreePalestine tweet. Casspi quickly responded with his own tweets, including one that read, “600 missiles been fired from GAZA by Hamas in last 4 days. NUMBERS DON’T LIE. STOP LYING.” Howard quickly retracted his remarks and called his former teammate to apologize. Casspi, who has received his own share of criticism for venting, regrets sharing his thoughts so publicly and acknowledged that his emotions are raw and unfiltered, increasingly so since his return to Israel.
He recently engaged in a brief, but controversial Twitter tussle about the Israel-Gaza conflict with his friend and former Houston Rockets teammate, Dwight Howard. But the worst of it? Casspi, 26, is standing on the corner of the latest Middle East conflagration, running to bomb shelters when sirens sound and incoming rockets shake his boyhood home in Yavne, a Tel Aviv suburb about 45 miles from the border with Gaza. “Everyone is scared and on edge,” Casspi said in a lengthy phone conversation. “My dog (Butch) follows me everywhere, even into the bathroom. I tried to sleep last night, but then the sirens go off, and you can hear when the Iron Dome missiles connect with an incoming rocket. The whole house trembles. My sister and my parents, we just run to the nearest bomb shelter. Believe me, this is just terrible.”