hapoel jerusalem 298.88.
(photo credit: www.hapoel.co.il)
Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem will square off for the 2005/06 BSL title on Thursday night at Nokia Arena, but 24 hours before the big game the story had little to do with preparations for coach Pini Gershon's last game or Jerusalem's bid for its first championship.
Hapoel decided to cancel its evening practice at Nokia Arena and instead prepare for the final in the capital.
As a result, the team did not send players to Tel Aviv to represent it at a noon press conference.
The BSL Administration fined Hapoel $3,000 for failing to send players to the event, which only coach Erez Edelstein attended. Later the team said in a statement that it had approached the BSL about changing the time last week.
"When we asked the BSL Administration and Yaron Michaeli to postpone the press conference if we reach the final, we were assured by [Avner] Kopel and Michaeli that so it would be.
"In any event, the $3,000 should be used by the Administration to send Michaeli to a course to learn how to market the next Final Four so that the arena won't be half empty."
Perhaps the goal in Jerusalem was to create a stir that would help keep the pressure away from the players before the biggest game of the season.
Expectations were high coming onto the season after new club president Arkadi Gaydamak provided the team with an unprecedented budget. But despite reaching the ULEB Cup semifinals and the State Cup final, the team is 0-4 against Maccabi.
However, a historic win on Thursday would be all that people remember.
One of the main story lines will be the matchup between the teams' dynamic point guards, Jerusalem's Horace Jenkins, who scored the game-winning free throw with 0.7 seconds remaining to edge Maccabi Rishon in Tuesday's semifinal, and Maccabi's Will Solomon, who played for Hapoel two season's ago.
Solomon made it clear that he won't take it easy against his former team. "I'd love to win a championship playing against [Jerusalem]... and I'm gonna prepare to beat them."
Maccabi's other representative at the press conference, Tal Burstein, was confident that the one-game format as opposed to a best-of-five series in the past will work in his team's favor. "We're preparing better than usual and will be more focused," he said.
Gershon, who coached Hapoel to its first ever title when it beat Maccabi in the 1996 State Cup final, seemed to be the most confident man in the room.
"This game depends upon us," Gershon said. "We're the favorite and it depends how we play. I want them to play like they did yesterday and we'll play like we did yesterday and we'll go home happily... So that there won't be a reason for me to stick around another year."
The last time these teams met for the title was in 2001, when Maccabi swept Hapoel in the finals.
Tel Aviv, which has won every Israeli league championship since 1993, will be gunning for its 46th title.
On TV: BSL Championship game Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem (live at 8:50 p.m. on Channel 10)