Sam Cassell

Sam Cassell

Cassell (right) speaking with Caron Butler
Los Angeles Clippers
Position Assistant coach
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1969-11-18) November 18, 1969
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Listed weight 185 lb (84 kg)
Career information
High school Paul Laurence Dunbar
(Baltimore, Maryland)
Maine Central Institute
(Pittsfield, Maine)
NBA draft 1993 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24th overall
Selected by the Houston Rockets
Playing career 1993–2008
Position Point guard
Number 10, 19, 20, 28
Career history
As player:
19931996 Houston Rockets
1996 Phoenix Suns
1996–1997 Dallas Mavericks
19971999 New Jersey Nets
19992003 Milwaukee Bucks
20032005 Minnesota Timberwolves
20052008 Los Angeles Clippers
2008 Boston Celtics
As coach:
20092014 Washington Wizards (assistant)
2014–present Los Angeles Clippers (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
Career statistics
Points 15,635 (15.7 ppg)
Assists 5,939 (6.0 apg)
Rebounds 3,221 (3.2 rpg)
Stats at

Samuel James "Sam" Cassell Sr (born November 18, 1969) is an American retired professional basketball player and current assistant coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. Drafted 24th overall in the 1993 NBA draft out of Florida State University, Cassell played for eight different teams during his 15-year career. He was selected to the NBA All-Star Game and All-NBA Team once, both in the 2003–04 season. He played the point guard position.

In his first two seasons, he helped the Houston Rockets win back to back championships and won a third with the Boston Celtics in 2008, his last season. He also helped the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves reach the Conference Finals of the playoffs in 2001 and 2004 respectively, the latter's first-ever in franchise history, and helped the Los Angeles Clippers to their first-ever playoff series victory in 2006. Known for his mid-range jumpshot,[1][2][3] Cassell often made clutch baskets late in the fourth quarter to help his team win games.[4]


After graduating from Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community High School in East Baltimore, Maryland, Cassell spent a post graduate year at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, Maine under coach Max Good. From MCI, Cassell was successfully recruited to attend DePaul University.[5] He was declared academically ineligible based on National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s Proposition 48 standards, and ended up starting his college career at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, where he was known as a big scorer. He moved on to Florida State University in Tallahassee for his junior and senior years. In his senior year in 1992–93, he averaged 18.3 points, 4.9 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game and led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in steals. Cassell and teammate Bob Sura formed the highest scoring and rebounding backcourt in the nation with 38.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Cassell's 1992–93 Seminoles team finished with a 25–10 record and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to the University of Kentucky's Wildcats.[6]

On February 14, 2008, in a game against Wake Forest, Cassell's jersey was retired by Florida State.[7]

NBA career

Houston Rockets (1993–1996)

Cassell was selected out of Florida State University with the 24th overall pick of the 1993 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. Playing mostly as a backup to Kenny Smith, Cassell developed a reputation as "clutch" and was usually on the court for the fourth quarter of close games.[8] He was a key contributor during the Rockets playoff run his rookie year, notably dropping 22 points and seven assists in a game 7 win against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals,[9] and scoring 7 points in the final 32 seconds of a 93–89 win in game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks.[10] The Rockets would win the championship in seven games.

Cassell saw an increase in his role during his second year, appearing in all 82 games that season. He again helped the Rockets reach the NBA Finals for the second consecutive year. In game 3 of the Finals against the Orlando Magic, Cassell scored 31 points.[11] The Rockets swept the Magic, giving Cassell his second championship in just two years in the league.

In his third season, the two-time defending champion Rockets were swept out of the second round of the playoffs by the Seattle SuperSonics. Rockets management feared their window of winning another championship with Olajuwon, Drexler and Smith was closing, and looked to trade for another star caliber player.

Phoenix Suns (1996–97)

After the 1995–96 season, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns, along with Robert Horry, Chucky Brown, and Mark Bryant, in exchange for former league MVP Charles Barkley. Cassell, who was in the last year of his rookie contract, frequently clashed with head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons; Fitzsimmons subsequently resigned following an 0–8 start.[12] On December 12, 1996, Cassell led the 5–14 Suns into Utah and defeated the Jazz who at the time were on a 15-game winning streak. Cassell scored 21 points in the 95-87 road win.[13] Under new head coach Danny Ainge, the Suns saw marked improvement with Cassell leading the team with 14.8 points per game.[14]

Dallas Mavericks (1996–97)

On December 27, 1996, just 22 games into the season, he was traded along with Michael Finley, A. C. Green, and a second-round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas, and Loren Meyer. Though Cassell had begun to develop chemistry with the Suns and Coach Ainge, team management felt they could not pass up the opportunity to trade for Kidd.[14]

New Jersey Nets (1997–1999)

Midway through the 1996–97 season, after appearing in 16 games for the Mavericks, he was traded with Chris Gatling, Jim Jackson, George McCloud, and Eric Montross to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Shawn Bradley, Ed O'Bannon, Robert Pack, and Khalid Reeves on February 17, 1997. The Nets would be the third team that Cassell played for just that season.

Following the season, he elected to re-sign with the Nets. He averaged 19.6 points, 8 assists and 1.6 steals in 34 minutes per game for the Nets that year, and helped lead them to the playoffs for their first time in four years. However they were swept by Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the first round. During his time with the Nets, Cassell lived in Teaneck, New Jersey.[15]

Milwaukee Bucks (1999–2003)

On March 11, 1999, Cassell was again traded in a three team, eight player trade that sent Stephon Marbury to the Nets, Terrell Brandon to Minnesota Timberwolves, and Cassell to the Milwaukee Bucks.[16] Under their new coach George Karl, Cassell formed a "Big 3" with Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson.[17][18]

On March 3, 2001, he scored his career-high of 40 points against the Chicago Bulls. During All-Star Weekend in 2001, he won the Fleer Shootout at Jam Session on All-Star Saturday. That season, after defeating the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he almost reached the Finals with the Bucks, falling just short when they lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. During the 2002–03 season, he passed 10,000 points for his career.

On March 28, 2008, Cassell was honored as one of the 20 greatest players in Milwaukee Bucks history during the team's 40th Anniversary Celebration.[19][20]

Minnesota Timberwolves (2003–2005)

After spending four seasons with the Bucks, he was traded along with Ervin Johnson to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler following the 2003 NBA draft.[21] Cassell enjoyed his most successful season as an individual that year. He posted 19.8 points on 49% shooting, 7.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 35 minutes per game on the year. He was named to the All-NBA Second Team and voted into the 2004 NBA All-Star Game. Cassell, Latrell Sprewell and Kevin Garnett formed what was widely considered the best trio in the NBA that season,[22] vaulting past Western Conference powerhouses the Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers for the number one seed in the Western Conference, with a franchise-best 58–24 record.

Cassell made his playoff debut with the Timberwolves scoring a franchise playoff record 40 points, in a first round game 1 win against the Denver Nuggets.[23] Minnesota would win the series in five games.[24] They faced the Sacramento Kings in the next round, with Cassell again dropping 40 points in the series opener.[25] A series of late-game heroics from Cassell helped the Timberwolves defeat the Kings in seven games.[26][27] Cassell however sustained a back injury that limited him in the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers,[28] which the Lakers would win in six games.

The following year, the Timberwolves finished 44-38, missing the playoffs by one game in the competitive Western Conference. Cassell, who appeared in only 59 games that season due to injuries, voiced his frustration over the midseason firing of Flip Saunders and not being offered a contract extension.

Los Angeles Clippers (2005–2008)

Cassell signing basketballs with the Clippers

After the 2004–05 season, the Timberwolves traded Cassell and a conditional first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Marko Jarić and Lionel Chalmers. The trade is widely considered among the NBA's most lopsided ever;[29][30][31][32][33][34] Chalmers never played another game in the NBA, and Jaric was traded after three unproductive yet overpaid seasons. Cassell meanwhile led the Clippers to their then-most successful season, and the draft pick from Minnesota was used by the Clippers as part of the Chris Paul trade. As of the 2016 playoffs, the Timberwolves have still not qualified for the postseason since Cassell was traded.

Cassell appeared to have found a home with the Clippers, as he helped lead them back to the playoffs for the first time since 1997, with their best record in team history at 47–35. Since the team moved to California in 1978, they had compiled just three winning seasons. In the first round, they beat the Denver Nuggets in five games, but would fall to the Phoenix Suns in seven games in the Conference Semifinals. Between their move to California in 1978 and Chris Paul's arrival in 2011, this would be the only year that the Clippers won a playoff series.

Before the 2006–07 season, Cassell was reportedly offered a two-year, $15 million offer from the Atlanta Hawks, but eventually re-signed with the Clippers on a two-year, $13 million deal.[35] Cassell struggled with injuries that season, and the Clippers missed the playoffs by two games.

With Elton Brand, Shaun Livingston, Chris Kaman and others suffering major injuries, the Clippers started rebuilding throughout the 2007–08 season. Although Cassell was initially reluctant to discuss leaving the Clippers,[36] he eventually decided to listen to their buyout offers.[37] On February 28, 2008, the Clippers reached a contractual buyout agreement with Cassell and placed him on waivers.[38][39] According to the agreement, Cassell received half of his remaining salary, roughly $850,000.[40]

Boston Celtics (2008)

Cassell passes the ball in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks.

Cassell became an unrestricted free agent on March 3, 2008, 6 p.m. ET, when he cleared waivers, and was eligible to sign with a team of his choice.[41] Although the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns were interested in his services,[42] he was strongly linked with a poised move to the Boston Celtics and was expected to be in Boston once he cleared waivers.[41] On March 1, 2008, Cassell's agent, David Falk, confirmed that Cassell would sign a contract with the Celtics for the remainder of the season if he cleared waivers, receiving a prorated amount of the veteran minimum of $1.2M.[43] Cassell said that he would wear either No. 28 or No. 91 on his jersey,[41] and eventually chose No. 28.[44]

According to his agent, Cassell had signed a contract with the Celtics on March 3, 2008, but the signing was pending an official league announcement.[45][46][47] His arrival was delayed because of a death in his family.[45] On March 4, 2008, Cassell officially signed with the Celtics,[48] but immediately flew back to his hometown of Baltimore to attend funeral services for his deceased family member.[49][50] He made his debut against the Philadelphia 76ers on March 10, 2008.[51] In Boston, Cassell was reunited with former teammates Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

On March 17, 2008, Cassell had a standout performance in a Saint Patrick's Day matchup against the San Antonio Spurs, when he led the team from a 22-point deficit to a 2-point victory, scoring 17 points and hitting a clutch shot late in the game.[52][53]

Cassell, along with Eddie House, James Posey, P.J. Brown, and Leon Powe, gave the Celtics arguably the best bench in the NBA that season.[54][55] They helped the Celtics finish with a NBA-best 66–16 record en route to the NBA Finals. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 4–2, with the Celtics bench out-scoring the Lakers in five of the six games.[56] The win gave Cassell his third championship, which would also be the last game he played.

During the 2008–09 season, Cassell served as an unofficial assistant to head coach Doc Rivers; though he did not play in any games, he was still officially listed as an active player.[57] On February 17, 2009, Cassell was traded to the Sacramento Kings for a conditional second-round draft pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.[58] The move was done strictly for salary cap purposes and Cassell was not expected to play for the Kings. One day later, Sacramento waived him.[59]

In 2015, Paul Pierce stated that he felt he, Garnett and Cassell were the real "Big 3" of the Celtics 2008 championship team.[60] Cassell encouraged Pierce to sign with the Washington Wizards in 2014 while he was the Wizards assistant coach.[61]

Cassell speaking with John Wall.

Assistant coach

On May 21, 2009, Cassell was named assistant coach under Flip Saunders of the Washington Wizards.[62][63] John Wall, who was drafted first overall by the Wizards in 2010, credits Cassell for his development into one of the NBA's premier point guards and leadership during the team's Eastern Conference semi-finals appearance in 2014 – their first playoff series win since 2005.[64]

After five seasons with the Wizards, Cassell was hired by the Los Angeles Clippers on September 29, 2014 to join Doc Rivers' staff as assistant coach.[65]


Cassell appeared on TNT's NBA Fundamentals series, in which basketball players describe certain aspects of the game. He was chosen to illustrate the "mid-range game", i.e. shooting from the area around the free throw line, the paint, the wings and the baseline. In this clip,[66] Cassell explains how to post up against opposing guards, shoot pull-up jump shots and hit buzzer beaters. He admires retired NBA players Terrell Brandon and Jeff Hornacek, two prolific mid-range shooters after whom he modeled his game.


His son, Sam Cassell Jr.,[67][68][69] is a redshirt senior for Iona College. Cassell Jr. also played for and earned his associate's and bachelor's degrees from Chipola College and the University of Connecticut respectively.[70][71]

NBA career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes season in which Cassell won an NBA championship
1993–94 Houston 66 6 17.0 .418 .295 .841 2.0 2.9 .9 .1 6.7
1994–95 Houston 82 1 23.0 .427 .330 .843 2.6 4.9 1.1 .2 9.5
1995–96 Houston 61 0 27.6 .439 .348 .825 3.1 4.6 .9 .1 14.5
1996–97 Phoenix 22 9 24.5 .415 .306 .855 2.3 4.5 1.0 .3 14.8
1996–97 Dallas 16 13 24.9 .424 .306 .840 3.1 3.6 1.1 .4 12.3
1996–97 New Jersey 23 22 33.8 .443 .392 .831 3.6 6.5 1.6 .3 19.3
1997–98 New Jersey 75 72 34.7 .441 .188 .860 3.0 8.0 1.6 .3 19.6
1998–99 New Jersey 4 3 25.0 .429 .143 .935 1.5 4.8 .8 .0 18.0
1998–99 Milwaukee 4 0 24.8 .409 .333 .947 2.3 4.3 1.5 .0 13.8
1999–2000 Milwaukee 81 81 35.8 .466 .289 .876 3.7 9.0 1.3 .1 18.6
2000–01 Milwaukee 76 75 35.6 .474 .306 .858 3.9 7.6 1.2 .1 18.2
2001–02 Milwaukee 74 73 35.2 .463 .348 .860 4.2 6.7 1.2 .2 19.7
2002–03 Milwaukee 78 77 34.6 .470 .362 .861 4.4 5.8 1.1 .2 19.7
2003–04 Minnesota 81 81 35.0 .488 .398 .873 3.3 7.3 1.3 .2 19.8
2004–05 Minnesota 59 38 25.8 .464 .262 .865 2.7 5.1 .6 .2 13.5
2005–06 L.A. Clippers 78 75 34.0 .443 .368 .863 3.7 6.3 .9 .1 17.2
2006–07 L.A. Clippers 58 30 24.3 .418 .294 .879 2.9 4.7 .5 .1 12.3
2007–08 L.A. Clippers 38 33 25.7 .455 .259 .891 2.8 4.7 .7 .1 12.8
2007–08† Boston 17 1 17.6 .385 .409 .840 1.8 2.1 .5 .2 7.6
Career 993 690 30.0 .454 .331 .861 3.2 6.0 1.1 .2 15.7
All-Star 1 0 13.0 .667 .000 .000 1.0 7.0 1.0 0.0 4.0


1994 Houston 22 0 21.7 .394 .378 865 2.7 4.2 1.0 .2 9.4
1995 Houston 22 0 22.0 .438 .400 .835 1.9 4.0 1.0 .1 11.0
1996 Houston 8 0 25.8 .321 .276 .793 2.1 4.3 .8 .1 10.4
1998 New Jersey 3 1 8.7 .333 .000 .000 1.0 1.7 .0 .3 2.0
1999 Milwaukee 3 3 34.0 .500 .000 .875 2.0 8.7 1.0 .0 15.3
2000 Milwaukee 5 5 35.6 .417 .200 .857 3.4 9.0 .8 .0 15.8
2001 Milwaukee 18 18 37.9 .396 .333 .866 4.6 6.7 1.1 .2 17.4
2003 Milwaukee 6 6 36.2 .470 .524 .933 3.2 2.7 .5 .2 17.2
2004 Minnesota 16 15 31.1 .465 .417 .852 2.5 4.4 .8 .2 16.6
2006 L.A. Clippers 12 12 33.7 .437 .349 .809 4.0 5.8 .7 .2 18.0
2008 Boston 21 0 12.6 .333 .214 .824 0.7 1.2 .4 .0 4.5
Career 136 60 26.0 .414 .363 .847 2.6 4.4 .8 .1 12.2

See also


  1. Femrite, Matt (2014-07-30). "Profile of a Shooter: Sam Cassell". Nylon Calculus. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  2. Dr. Jrs (2013-04-10). "True Hoops: Point Guard Project – Sam Cassell". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  3. Kevin (2011-07-22). "Who Had the Better Mid-Range Jumpshot: Sam Cassell or Mike Bibby?". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  4. Sam's Club:Cassell has given Clippers the take-charge leader they needed
  5. Mullin, Jeff. "Sutton victim of Joey Meyer syndrome," Enid (OK) News & Eagle, Wednesday, April 2, 2008.
  6. Cassell's 1992–93 Seminoles team
  7. Safid Deen. "Seminole sports including FSU football, basketball, baseball and more sports | Tallahassee Democrat". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  8. "Clutch City: Sam Cassell". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  9. "Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets - Box Score - May 21, 1994 - ESPN". 1994-05-21. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  11. Amway Arena, Orlando, Florida (1995-06-09). "Houston Rockets vs. Orlando Magic - Box Score - June 09, 1995 - ESPN". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  13. "Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Box Score, December 12, 1996". 1996-12-12. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  14. 1 2 "Kidd Is Traded to Suns for Cassell, Finley, Green – latimes". Associated Press. 1996-12-27. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  15. Vaccaro, Mike (April 24, 2003). "Cassell: I Love NY". New York Post. Retrieved October 23, 2011. 'When I played in New Jersey, it wasn't so much that I was thrilled with being in New Jersey as that I was 10 minutes from New York,' said [Sam Cassell], who lived in Teaneck when he played for the Nets. 'I spent a lot of days and a lot of nights in the city. A lot of fun days. And a few long nights.'
  16. "Marbury Nets Deal With Nj Eight-player Trade Involves Timberwolves And Bucks – philly-archives". 2014-06-03. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  18. "Best NBA Trios of All-Time | News". BET. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  19. 40th Anniversary Main Page,, March 26, 2008.
  20. Charles F. Gardner, Forward march: Dandridge proud of legacy he left with team, JS Online, March 28, 2008.
  21. "In Fallout From Draft, Bucks Trade Cassell". New York Times. June 28, 2003.
  22. Are these Wolves made of tougher Timber?
  23. Minnesota not likely to cry wolf in playoffs with Cassell
  24. "Wolves End Playoff Drought". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  25. "Bibby, Kings Topple Wolves". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  26. "Wolves' Rally Stuns Kings". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  27. "Garnett Leads Timberwolves To Western Conference Finals". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  28. "Kings Push Series to Limit". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  29. "Marko Jaric for Sam Cassell - Clippers Best. Trade. Ever.". Clips Nation. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  30. 8/15/12 Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten. "Looking Back: The Sam Cassell Trade | THE OFFICIAL SITE OF THE LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  31. Richardsonrrichardson, Ray. "Six years later, Sam Cassell-Marko Jaric trade still haunts Timberwolves". Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  32. "Best. Trade.(s) Ever. - The Summer of Sam and Spree". Canis Hoopus. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  36. Jonathan Abrams, Cassell denies aggressive bid for a buyout, Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2008.
  37. Jonathan Abrams, Cassell confirms buyout talks with Clippers, Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2008.
  38. Clippers Waive Guard Sam Cassell,, February 28, 2008.
  39. Injury-prone Cassell released by the Clippers, Associated Press, February 28, 2008.
  40. Jonathan Abrams, Cassell finally gets his contract buyout, February 29, 2008.
  41. 1 2 3 Marc J. Spears, Cassell gets buyout; next stop Boston?, The Boston Globe, February 28, 2008.
  42. Mark Murphy, Waiting for right time on Cassell, Boston Herald, February 29, 2008.
  43. Marc J. Spears, Cassell: Clear to here?, The Boston Globe, March 1, 2008.
  44. Steve Bulpett, Cassell is on hold, Boston Herald, March 9, 2008.
  45. 1 2 Peter May, Cassell clears waivers, signs with Celtics, The Boston Globe, March 3, 2008.
  46. Former Clipper Cassell expected to officially join Celtics Tuesday,, March 3, 2008.
  47. Steve Bulpett, Cassell clears waivers, heading to Hub, Boston Herald, March 3, 2008.
  48. Celtics Sign Guard Sam Cassell,, March 4, 2008.
  49. Celtics Insider, Cassell here and gone, Boston Herald, March 4, 2008.
  50. Marc J. Spears, Cassell update, The Boston Globe, March 4, 2008.
  52. Marc J. Spears, Sam Dunk – Cassell's clutch shot helps Celtics top Spurs, The Boston Globe, March 18, 2008.
  53. John Schuhmann, Sam Cassell Makes Shots,, March 17, 2008.
  57. Passion to teach drives Cassell
  58. "Kings acquire sam cassell". 2009-02-17. Retrieved 2009-02-17.
  59. "Kings acquire four players in three-team trade". 2009-02-18. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
  60. Paul Pierce: Ray Allen Never Truly a Part of the Big Three
  61. Sam Cassell, after helping lure Paul Pierce to Wizards, returns to D.C. as Clippers assistant
  62. "Wizards Name Wittman and Cassell As Assistant Coaches". 2009-05-21. Retrieved 2009-05-22.
  64. Wall credits 'big part' of his NBA growth to Sam Cassell
  65. "Clippers Announce Additions to Coaching Staff". 29 September 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  66. NBA Fundamentals: Sam Cassell – Mid-Range on
  70. Sam Cassell Jr. doing well in junior college, still keeping track of the Terps
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