Considering the standard he set over the past two seasons, Maccabi Tel Aviv
coach David Blatt has little room for error in the coming campaign.
yellow-and-blue gets 2012/13 officially underway on Thursday night when it
visits Unicaja Malaga in its Euroleague regular season opener.
claimed the BSL and State Cup double in each of the last two seasons under
Blatt, also lifting the Adriatic League title last term, resulting in a hectic
After last season’s experience and with each team to
play a 14-game program in the Euroleague Top 16 rather than just six as in
recent years, Tel Aviv decided to drop the Adriatic League from its
Nevertheless, Maccabi has put together a roster which includes
12 senior players, with seven of them being new arrivals.
Blatt will have
to rebuild the team almost from scratch, but he has gotten used to that and
believes he has a roster with great promise.
“I think we have potentially
a good team,” he told me on Tuesday. “I’m an experienced coach with a realistic
view of things and I know that when you are building a new team you need time.
It doesn’t come together in 3-4 weeks. It just doesn’t work like
“I’m happy with the guys that we’ve got and with the approach and
the work ethic.
“Do I feel like we are ready to win the Euroleague right
now? No. But we’ll see how we develop over the course of the year.”
ever, Maccabi experienced an extremely eventful off-season.
breakthrough player, Yogev Ohayon, signed a deal with Russian club Lokomotiv
Kuban and exchanged insults with Maccabi’s management before a FIBA arbitrator
ruled that he is under contract with the yellow-and-blue. The sides somehow put
the ordeal behind them and reconciled.
Maccabi had already made
alternative plans for Ohayon by signing Ricky Hickman and especially Moran Rot,
but they both remain with the team and will be battling Ohayon for precious
Elsewhere, Pops Mensah-Bonsu was brought in to help fill the
void left under the baskets by the departure of Sofoklis Schortsanitis and
Richard Hendrix, but he didn’t pass a medical last month and Maccabi only
completed the signing of his replacement Malcolm Thomas last week.
has his concerns following a frantic summer, but he is pleased with the attitude
displayed by his players.
“I like the way the guys have worked hard to
try and come together,” he said. “It has been a challenging preseason because we
haven’t had all of the team together basically for the whole term of preparation
due to the national team late arrivals, injuries and unexpected events like
“We just got a player for that position a few
days ago, so it hasn’t been a typical preparation for the opening of the
“The Euroleague also starts earlier this year because of the
increased number of games so it’s coming up on us a little bit fast. We are
going to have to do something special to really be ready.”
Blatt can at
least console himself in the knowledge that Ohayon is back for another season,
something which seemed very unlikely just a few weeks ago.
“That was a
very pleasant ending to something that was ominous at the beginning,” he said.
“The story did not look good and the prospects for him being here were not very
high. But when things took on a different light and management was able to
overcome a lot of the difficulties, as was Yogi, it was a very happy bit of news
for us and something that is obviously going to help us a great
Ohayon grew in stature as last season progressed, averaging 9.8
points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while playing the fourth most minutes on
the team in the 3-2 quarterfinal playoff series defeat to
Blatt holds no hard feelings towards Ohayon and is
confident there is still plenty more to come from the Israel national team
“I think Yogi has got a long way to go towards improving his game
and helping the team and he has the ability and the attitude to do it,” he
noted. “I think he is going to go through his little period of readjustment into
the team and that’s natural but he’ll be fine. He’s a very good player and a
very good person.”
Despite having to overhaul the team on a yearly basis,
Blatt has no complaints.
“It’s the reality,” he exclaimed. “It’s not a
matter of being frustrated or anything. You play with the cards that you have.
You don’t complain about it and you don’t worry about it and you don’t get upset
about it. We build new teams every fall and we are going to build a new one
Blatt added that he hopes “that it won’t be like this for the
next couple of years, but we get good players in and we make them better players
and they get bigger offers. That’s the reality.”
Blatt spent much of the
past summer working with the Russian national team, ultimately leading it to a
remarkable bronze medal at the London Olympics.
The 53-year-old’s success
in London increased his profile in the US even further, but the Boston native,
who made Aliya 31 years ago, claimed he is not giving the NBA much thought at
“I don’t really think about it to be honest with you, it’s
not on my plate right now,” he said, before adding that he has no interest in
working in the NBA in a consultant capacity as Italian coach Ettore Messina did
for the Los Angeles Lakers last season.
“I wouldn’t want to be a
consultant and just sit around all day and not do a whole lot. I want to
Maccabi may have missed out on the Euroleague Final Four last
season, but Blatt believes the campaign was a resounding success and he has
every intention of maintaining the standard he established over the last two
“Let’s be realistic. We won four titles last season and only
missed the Final Four by one basket after one of the best series’ in Euroleague
So why wouldn’t people be happy?” he asked.
is not only about going to the Final Four. I don’t know where people got that
impression. That’s kind of stupid if you ask me.”