Maccabi Tel Aviv enters its Euroleague opener at Laboral Vitoria on Thursday
night with plenty to prove.
The yellow-and-blue starts every season with
nearly impossibly high expectations, and to complicate matters even further, it
faces Vitoria just three days after suffering a shock defeat at Hapoel Holon in
its BSL opener.
Despite a dominant showing in the pre-season Winner Cup
last week, Maccabi looked lethargic and lackluster against Holon and squandered
a 13- point lead after being outscored 22-8 in the fourth
However, while Maccabi takes every defeat to heart, David
Blatt’s men had little time to mull over the loss to Holon and the coach is
hoping his players will use the disappointment as added motivation against
“It isn’t easy to come back and train after losing the previous
night, but we have little time between the games and we had no choice,” said
Blatt after the team’s training session on Tuesday.
“No one likes to
lose, especially at Maccabi. There are some people who say that there is
something good in losing but I disagree. There is nothing good in a defeat,
although you can learn from a loss and draw motivation from it.”
beat Vitoria on the road in the Euroleague Top 16 last season, but will be
facing a team in rebuilding mode on Thursday.
Star guard Fernando San
Emeterio remains one of the side’s best players – and its only Spaniard – while
veteran Andres Nocioni is also back for another season.
fans will recognize few other faces in Vitoria’s roster, although new coach
Sergio Scariolo, who replaced Zan Tabak, is a familiar foe.
Lamont Hamilton and Walter Hodge will be two of the main players targeted by
Blatt’s defensive game plan for Thursday, with German giant Tibor Pleiss and
Frenchmen Thomas Heurtel and Fabian Caseur giving the team some continuity after
choosing to come back for another term.
Tabak was sent packing after an
early exit in the Spanish League playoffs, but Vitoria also began 2013/14 with a
defeat, losing 99-96 to Gran Canaria on Sunday.
Perhaps the only positive
Blatt could draw from Monday’s humbling loss in Holon was the encouraging
display by David Blu.
Despite playing in his first game after a year in
retirement, Blu looked sharp, scoring eight quick points in the first period
before tiring and ending the night with 11 points.
Blatt slotted Blu
right back into his starting five and the sharp-shooter is set to be Maccabi’s
primary power forward this season.
Blu only officially signed until the
end of the season on Tuesday, and has embarked on his seventh campaign with the
yellow-and-blue in his fourth separate tenure.
“I felt pretty comfortable
on the court, but I got a little tired in the second half,” he said. “However,
my body feels good and it is basketball. I’ve been doing it my whole
Blatt was delighted with what he saw from Blu in his first game
“We already wanted him in the summer, but it took him time to
decide,” he said. “He isn’t ready to play heavy minutes at the moment, but in
the time in which he played we saw the good old David.”
Blatt should have
a full roster at his disposal on Thursday, although Devin Smith and Ricky
Hickman are both carrying injuries and are not fully fit.
Smith sat out
Monday’s game, but Blu isn’t concerned the defeat to Holon will have any lasting
effect and is confident ahead of the tricky opener in Vitoria.
about recovery and putting the loss behind us,” he explained. “I’m sure we will
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