coach David Blatt 370.
(photo credit: Adi Avishai)
Despite its dismal start to the season and Friday’s daunting Euro league visit to
Lokomotiv Kuban, Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt continues to believe his
team is capable of achieving great things this season.
back from its opening loss in Europe to claim a 96-82 win over Red Star Belgrade
last week and improve to 1-1 in Group D.
However, Tel Aviv enters
Friday’s encounter in Russia on the back of a shocking 72-71 BSL defeat to
newly-promoted Ironi Ness Ziona, meaning the yellow-and-blue has lost two of its
first three games in local action for the first time ever.
Blatt is optimistic that it is only a matter of time until Maccabi finds its
form and lives up to the lofty expectations.
“I know that it doesn’t look
very good at the moment, but I really believe in this team,” said Blatt. “I
think we have a lot of potential. It will take a little more time, but we will
find our way and we will be a very strong team.”
Blatt surely drew plenty
of encouragement from the performance against Belgrade last week, especially
from the fact that the yellow-and-blue scored 15 of 28 three-point
However, the humbling defeat at Ness Ziona piled the pressure
on the coach once more.
“This isn’t an easy period, but it isn’t as bad
as what it is made out to be,” he claimed.
“Besides our pride, nothing
has really been hurt. As we always said when things had gone well, what happens
in October is fairly insignificant as it almost has no effect on what happens in
May and June. Nevertheless, we are not used to losing and we don’t like
Making matters all the more complicated for Maccabi is the tough
task it faces on Friday.
Kuban currently leads Group D, being the only
team with a 2-0 record after beating Rytas Vilnius 68-53 last
Maccabi will meet in Kuban familiar faces in the form of former
players Richard Hendrix and Simas Jasaitis. Hendrix, who played for Maccabi
between 2010 and 2012, has opened the season in excellent form, averaging 18.0
points and 10.0 rebounds in the Euroleague so far.
His fellow Americans,
Derrick Brown (15.5 ppg) and Marcus Williams (13.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.0 rpg), help
form the core of the deep-pocketed team.
“I think Kuban is the best team
in the group at the moment,” said Blatt.
Kuban coach Evgeny Pashutin has
a clear game-plan for Friday.
“Active defense and three-pointers are the
main components of Tel Aviv’s game,” Pashutin explained. “Blu, Smith and Hickman
are very dangerous from outside. Sofo is a huge force down low both on defense
and offense. Our goal is to control Sofo by limiting his touches and play
extremely focused around the perimeter.”
Israeli forward Guy Pnini has
been a complete non-factor so far this season, failing to score a single point
in 14 minutes over three games in the BSL and in eight minutes over two
The former captain does however believe that Friday’s
game in Kuban could be the turning point for Maccabi.
“This is an
unpleasant period,” admitted Pnini. “In my five years at Maccabi I don’t
remember such a start to a season. However, this can happen and we need to