With the start of the European Championships just two weeks away, Israel finds itself in a tense position after yet another disappointing warm-up tournament.
The blue-and-white flew out to Georgia on Monday ahead of a friendly against the local national team on Tuesday, hoping for an improvement on its performance over the weekend in Almere, Holland.
Israel suffered an 80-70 defeat to the Netherlands on Sunday night, its second setback in three days following a 94-92 loss to US college outfit Villanova on Friday and a 77-72 win over Georgia on Saturday.
Israel played on Sunday without star forward Lior Eliyahu, who was rested, with the injured Omri Casspi remaining at home to nurse a slight tear in his left knee ligaments. However, coach Arik Shivek will still have expected the rest of his roster to do far better against a Dutch team which plays in Europe’s Division B.
“It is a shame we lost this game,” said Shivek after seeing his team
squander a six-point halftime lead to the Dutch, who are guided by
Israeli Gadi Kedar.
“We had some good minutes in the first half and some good minutes in the
second, but we couldn’t push on and win the game. We will correct our
mistakes and continue our preparations as planned.”
Israel, which also went 1-2 in its first warm-up event in Cyprus, will
return home from Tbilisi on Wednesday before hosting Poland and David
Blatt’s Russia in Rishon Lezion from August 21-24 in its final tune-up
tournament ahead of the start of the European Championships.
Israel will face Germany in its EuroBasket Group B opener on August 31
before playing Latvia the following day. It will then play Serbia on
September 2 and France two days later before wrapping up its group games
against Italy on September 5.
Only the top three teams in each group will advance to the last 12.
Besides finding a way to overcome the many weaknesses revealed in the
warmup games, Shivek will also be praying for some positive news on
However, the current signs are anything but encouraging.
“Time isn’t on our side,” Casspi said.
“I’m a professional player and I need to take care of my knees. With the
ankles you can take a risk, but not with the knees. That is very
Casspi is expected to officially join Maccabi Tel Aviv in the coming
days until the NBA lockout ends, but one player he will likely not be
teaming up with in the yellow-and-blue is Jeremy Pargo.
Despite signing a new lucrative contract with Maccabi in May following a
sensational first season at the club, Pargo has notified the team that
he is opting-out of the two-year deal as he would like to play in the
“Maccabi Tel Aviv has conveyed to the player that in light of the NBA
lockout and the fact that he does not, and will not, have a guaranteed
contract with any NBA team for the coming season, the announcement by
his agent is a violation of the contract between Pargo and Maccabi Tel
Aviv,” a club press release read.
“In spite of that, Pargo has expressed his intention of remaining in the US and waiting until the strike ends.”
According to Maccabi, Pargo had an opt-out clause in his contract, but
it could only be activated by August 1, with the player having to
present a signed contract offer from an NBA franchise.
Maccabi approached basketball’s governing body FIBA on Monday asking it
to check the legality of Pargo’s decision and it plans to take action
against the playmaker who led it to the Euroleague final last season.
“Maccabi’s management has conveyed to Pargo and his agent that it takes
exception to his behavior and views the player as responsible for any
damage caused to Maccabi by his breach of contract,” the club said.
“Maccabi intends to take all appropriate action to protect its rights in
“Following the player’s announcement, Maccabi Tel Aviv took the needed steps to strengthen its roster for the coming season.”
Maccabi signed Greek playmaker Theodoros Papaloukas to a one-year deal
on Saturday, adding the 34-year-old guard to a back court which even
without Pargo includes Devin Smith, Yogev Ohayon, Tal Burstein, Jon
Scheyer and Jordon Farmer, who will return to the New Jersey Nets once
the NBA lockout ends.