Maccabi Tel Aviv 88.
(photo credit: )
The 'One Man Fast Break' is coming to Israel, and it has nothing to do with Yom Kippur.
Actually, it's a reference to the superhero-like nickname of Maccabi Tel Aviv's speedy new acquisition, Dee Brown, freshly signed and ready to run.
Not to be confused with a former Boston Celtics player of the same name - the guy who once won the Slam Dunk Contest by virtue of pumping his Reebok sneakers before going airborne - this Dee Brown's game, by contrast, is played below the rim, at 1.83 m to be exact.
Okay, so he's short. But trust me, he's good.
At the University of Illinois Brown wowed crowds with his cheetah-like quickness. Sometimes, he left TV color analysts so speechless that the commentators could only manage to blurt out a "beep beep," as a way of comparing him to the infamous Roadrunner cartoon.
Maccabi hired a coach in mid-season whose style is run and gun, and Brown can do both.
Even before Tel Aviv picked up the pace under Coach Pini Gershon, Maccabi was in dire need of another perimeter athlete, another guard who could run with Carlos Arroyo and complement the talented point guard on the fast break.
Apologies for the following pun, but Arroyo has been missing a wingman.
Brown, 24, who can also be deadly as a standstill shooter, might just be that player.
With the NBA's Jazz, Suns, and Wizards the past several seasons, Brown struggled in limited minutes. But he had a quality stint at Galatasaray in Turkey last year, averaging 14.7 points and nearly two steals a game.
Frankly, he didn't make it in the NBA because like countless not-quite-good-enough players there, he's a tad too small and can't always create his own shot.
But that was in the NBA. Europe's a different story. With less of an emphasis on one-on-one, mano-a-mano defense - sorry, Euroleague and BSL, no disrespect - and more soft zone-type looks, Brown should thrive.
Brown's biggest impact could be on the defensive end. In each of Maccabi's Euroleague defeats, its guards failed to contain dribble-penetration, which usually led to wide-open shots all over the court.
With Brown, such breakdowns rarely occur.
At Illinois, Brown played under Bruce Weber, a tough, gritty coach known for his emphasis on defense and the fundamentals.
Brown listened attentively to Weber, and it shows. He stays in front of his man. He dives after loose balls and takes charges. He's a smart player, a former academic standout, with a strong work ethic.
He doesn't quit or take plays off. This was the type of effort missing from Maccabi under Coach Effi Birenboim, who was fired in November.
Had Brown been around early in the season, who knows, Effi might still be around today.
Dee Brown's a proven winner. In 2005 - when he was named Sporting News National Player of the Year - he led Illinois to a historic 29-0 start, including a run all the way to the NCAA Championship game.
That season, he played brilliantly alongside current NBA star point guard Deron Williams.
For Dee, Carlos is the new Deron.
As Maccabi knows, talent is necessary, but not sufficient, for ultimate success. Brown's got intangibles: he's a clutch performer who's accustomed to stepping up - and succeeding - on big stages and in pressure-packed situations.
Of course, 'The One Man Fast Break' - despite the flashy nickname - is no superhero. With his lack of size and inability to consistently finish near the rim, he does have limitations.
But with an already-solid frontcourt consisting of an ever-improving Lior Eliyahu and the veteran presence of D'Or Fischer, Brown - when shuffled into the backcourt with Arroyo and veteran sharpshooter Marcus Brown - makes Maccabi more balanced and dangerous heading into Top 16 Euroleague play.
To sum up: Arroyo needed a sidekick. Too often, the Puerto Rican guard would make an offensive move, and - with little player movement along the arc or with the shot clock running down - force up a wild miss in traffic.
To use a bad analogy, Arroyo had been acting like the guy at a bar who, while he's got plenty of 'game' and is decent-looking enough, goes out on the town by himself and tries to do too much.
But for all his individual talent, he can't succeed alone. He needs some help.
He needs a wingman.
Rumor has it, Dee Brown's smooth with the ladies.