After opening each of its past two Euroleague seasons with road defeats, Maccabi
Tel Aviv visits Unicaja Malaga on Thursday night hoping to finally get a
continental campaign off to a winning start.
In fact, Maccabi has lost
its first Euroleague road game of the season in each of the last seven years.
The last time the yellow-and-blue won its road opener was in 2004, which was
also the last season Maccabi lifted the Euroleague title.
Euroleague couldn’t be further from David Blatt’s thoughts at the moment, with
the coach simply hoping his team will not suffer yet again from the teething
problems that dogged the start of the side’s last two campaigns.
would have been better off had the Euroleague not started earlier than usual,
but we don’t have that privilege,” Blatt said. “As always, we aren’t 100 percent
ready despite our preseason as many of our players joined the team very late.
There is also the injury to Devin Smith which has cost us one of the only
players who was also on the team last season. I hope we can overcome
Blatt downplayed his team’s chances in Spain. “Malaga has
been through a couple of tough seasons and they made some big changes this
off-season, bringing in expensive players and a new coach in Jasmin Repesa,” he
said. “Malaga is clearly one of the better teams in the group and I feel that we
are certainly the underdog. A road win would be a very significant step in
achieving our overall goals.”
Despite bringing in seven new players,
Maccabi isn’t expected to have any trouble advancing to the Top 16, with Malaga
and Italian side Montepaschi Siena likely to be Tel Aviv’s toughest opponents in
However, Alba Berlin, Prokom Gdynia and Chalon-Sur-Saone are not
supposed to cause the new-look Tel Aviv much trouble, meaning a place in the Top
16 already looks to be all but guaranteed considering the top four from each of
the four groups will advance to the next stage.
Malaga has 10 new players
on its roster, including point guards Earl Calloway and Marcus Williams and big
men Fran Vazquez and Kosta Perovic, who both arrived from
However, the man who will have the greatest influence on the
outcome of Malaga’s season is new Croatian coach Repesa.
that Maccabi Tel Aviv is an illustrious European club,” Repesa said. “They have
built a new team, but they are always in a position to win the
One of the biggest problems facing Blatt is the Euroleague
inexperience of many of his new players.
Nik Caner-Medley, Ricky Hickman,
Sylven Landesberg, Moran Roth and Malcolm Thomas are all set to make their
Euroleague debuts on Thursday, lending added importance to the handful of
players returning from last season.
One of those players is Guy Pnini,
who was named as the side’s new captain following the retirement of Tal
“We did what we could in the preseason, but there are a lot of
new players who will need time to get used to the system and the club,” he said.
“It is always tough to play in Malaga, but we will be ready.”
Shawn James is also back for another season and he will be looking to carve out
a greater role for himself after averaging just over eight minutes per game in
the Euroleague last term.
“We’ve done a good job preparing for this
season,” he said. “We know Malaga pretty well, and we’re going to try and play
our game. We’re going there to win and to play 40 minutes of good
“I’ve been waiting a long time for the new Euroleague season,
and I’m hoping to prove myself this season.”
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