Hapoel Jerusalem guard Yotam Halperin..
(photo credit: ODED KARNI)
Hapoel Jerusalem looks to build on its impressive road win over Maccabi Haifa in the BSL opener last week when it visits newly-promoted Ironi Nahariya on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Maccabi Tel Aviv aims to rebound from a disappointing pre-season when it begins its campaign at Ironi Ness Ziona.
Following a tight first half at Romema Arena, Jerusalem killed off the game in Haifa with a 17-3 run after the break on the way to a 76-58 victory.
Jerusalem also defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final of the pre-season Winner Cup, and despite coming up short in the Euroleague qualifiers, Hapoel has already given its fans plenty of reasons for optimism.
Nevertheless, new coach Danny Franco is not getting too far ahead of himself just yet.
“I’m very pleased that we allowed Haifa only 58 points. A lot of what we achieve this season will depend on how we defend,” said Franco.
“This is the attitude I want us to show throughout the year. There is still a long season ahead of us. To talk about winning the championship in October would be arrogant and we are not arrogant.”
Maccabi’s pre-season tour in South and North America raised many question marks regarding the team’s readiness for the campaign, with the yellow-and-blue claiming just a single win in four games.
While the defeats to the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets were to be expected, Maccabi was confident it would claim the FIBA Intercontinental Cup, only to lose to Flamengo on aggregate in Rio de Janeiro.
“We begin the real thing with a tough road game against Ness Ziona after 10 pre-season games,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes. “After that we will complete five games in two weeks but we are ready.”
Any hope Maccabi had of tempting David Blu back to the team ended on Saturday after the forward officially announced his retirement on Twitter. Blu declared at the end of last season that he plans to go into business after helping the yellow-andblue to another Euroleague title. However, he only finally ruled out any chance of making a comeback on Saturday.
“I can officially say that I am retired from playing the game of basketball,” wrote the 34-year-old Blu, who first joined Maccabi in 2002. “Thank you to all of my teammates, coaches, support staff, management and most definitely the fans throughout my three decades of basketball.”
Moran Roth is set to make his debut for Ness Ziona on Sunday after signing a two-month deal with the club on Friday.
Roth will fill the shoes left by veteran Meir Tapiro, who was injured last week.
On Monday, Hapoel Eilat hosts Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Gilboa/Galil visits Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Rishon Lezion faces Bnei Herzliya.
Maccabi Haifa bounced back from last week’s loss to Jerusalem by eking out a 74-73 win over Maccabi Ashdod at Romema Arena on Saturday.
Jeff Allen had 18 points for Haifa, with Dagan Yavzuri adding 14 points. Terrell Harris and Ivan Aska netted 15 points each for Ashdod.
Haifa will begin its fourth NBA tour in five years when it faces the Washington Wizards on October 15, before playing the Portland Trail Blazers on October 17, the Sacramento Kings and Omri Casspi on October 18 and the Toronto Raptors on October 22.