Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Jordan Farmar led all scorers with 23 points in Thursday night’s 84-54 win over Ironi Ness Ziona in their Winner Cup quarterfinal in Holon.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
The new BSL season gets under way on Saturday night when Maccabi Tel Aviv hosts newly promoted Maccabi Kiryat Gat at Yad Eliyahu Arena.
Maccabi once more finds itself hoping to reestablish its dominance over its local rivals after failing to claim the championship for the fourth time in eight years last season. Maccabi had previously won 37 of 38 league titles.
Not only did the yellow-and-blue not lift the championship shield, but it didn’t even make the final after losing to Hapoel Eilat in the semifinals, something which hadn’t happened since 1993.
Maccabi underwent a complete overhaul during the summer, with only five players coming back for another campaign (Yogev Ohayon, Devin Smith, Sylven Landesberg, Guy Pnini and Brian Randle). The club brought in five new names, including former NBA guard Jordan Farmar, who spent a twomonth stint in Tel Aviv during the NBA lockout in 2011.
Last season’s Euroleague top scorer Taylor Rochestie, Trevor Mbakwe, Dagan Yivzori and former Boston Celtics center Vítor Faverani were all signed earlier this summer, with Croatian teenage phenom Dragan Bender returning from a one-year loan at Ironi Ramat Gan of the second division.
Maccabi completed its roster earlier this week when it added Arinze Onuaku. The 28-year-old has spent most of his career in the NBA D-League and will give coach Guy Goodes a stronger presence under the baskets.
The yellow-and-blue has looked good in preseason, winning a tournament in Angers, France, as well as the local Winner Cup, while suffering just a single defeat throughout the summer.
“We are progressing both defensively and offensively,” said Goodes. “This is a completely new team and I didn’t expect us to be at this level at this stage.
The guys are very positive and the energy is very positive. We still have a lot of room for improvement but I believe we are on the right course.”
Kiryat Gat, led by coach Nati Cohen, is playing in the top flight for the first time in club history. It will hope to benefit from the experience of 40-yearold Meir Tapiro, who made his debut with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the 1994/95 season and set a new appearance record for a player in the top flight last season.
On Sunday, reigning champion Hapoel Jerusalem opens its title defense when it hosts Maccabi Ashdod. Jerusalem has maintained the core of last season’s triumphant roster, while signing Josh Duncan, Yancy Gates, E.J. Rowland and D’or Fischer. However, it has struggled for much of the preseason, winning just one game.
On Monday, Hapoel Holon hosts Bnei Herzliya, Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Ironi Ness Ziona and Maccabi Rishon Lezion welcomes Eilat.
Maccabi Haifa hosts Ironi Nahariya on Thursday after the Greens return from their NBA tour. Haifa faced the Memphis Grizzles on Thursday and will play the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.