(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hapoel Tel Aviv completed one of the biggest signings of recent years in Israeli basketball on Thursday, adding three-time winner of the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest Nate Robinson to its roster.
The 31-year-old guard hasn’t played since being waived by the New Orleans Pelicans last October, but Hapoel is hoping he can rekindle some of the old magic at the Drive-In Arena and help the struggling Reds reach the BSL playoffs.
Robinson, who was welcomed by hundreds of Hapoel fans at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night, was persuaded to come to Israel by former University of Washington teammate Tre Simmons, who signed with Hapoel last November. Robinson is set to earn in the region of $50,000- 60,000 for two months.
“I’m happy that a NBA star of this magnitude is coming to a club like Hapoel Tel Aviv,” said Hapoel chairman Rami Cohen. “It shows the spirit, passion and love for basketball that exists at this club, and that things like that reach across the ocean. This step shows that we haven’t given up on the season and that we want to end it in the best way possible.”
Robinson began his NBA career with the New York Knicks, being selected with the 21st overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 2005 NBA draft before being traded to the Big Apple. The 1.75- meter guard first made a name for himself by winning the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest, also claiming the title in 2009 and 2010 to become the first three-time winner.
Robinson’s best season was in 2008/09 when he averaged 17.2 points, 4.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds for the Knicks, but he was traded the following season after falling out with coach Mike D’Antoni and has played in seven different teams since.
After 10 years in the NBA, Robinson announced last week that he wanted to play in the NFL.
“I haven’t played in 11 years, 12 years, but I know how to tackle, I know how to play, I know how to hit, I know how to catch... I know it all.
If someone gave me a real opportunity, I know I could play,” he said in a video, which also included endorsements by Jamal Crawford, Glen Davis, Marcedes Lewis and Rick Neuheisel. Robinson played some college football, originally going to UW on a football scholarship, before winding up focusing on basketball instead.
Hapoel sits just two games above the bottom in the BSL standings, which will lead to relegation to the National League at the end of the season, after falling to a 9-14 record with a 101-80 loss to Bnei Herzliya last Saturday.
However, Tel Aviv is also only two games back of eighth place, which will lead to a berth to the playoffs, with 10 games still remaining in the regular season.
Hapoel hosts Maccabi Rishon Lezion on Sunday in its first game with Robinson.
In BSL action on Saturday, Ironi Ness Ziona welcomes Maccabi Haifa and Bnei Herzliya visits Hapoel Holon.