(photo credit: AP)
Maccabi Tel Aviv may need a superhuman effort on Tuesday night if it's to halt its preseason losing streak.
The reigning Israeli champions face the Cleveland Cavilers and superstar Lebron James in their third exhibition game against an NBA team.
Maccabi was thoroughly outplayed in its first two games against NBA clubs, losing 97-84 to the San Antonio Spurs and 119-102 to the Phoenix Suns last week at the NBA Europe Live tournament.
On Tuesday, Tel Aviv's task will be just as difficult and the team will need to put an end to the problems that have marred its preseason so far if it is to be competitive against the Cavs.
The new-look Maccabi is still going through "teething problems" after an offseason rebuilding process that saw the team replace its entire coaching staff and add six players.
The team's latest signing, Noel Felix, only met his teammates for the first time on Sunday and will barely train with the team before its season opener in the State Cup against Elitzur Ashkelon on October 23. Maccabi should certainly be able to handle Ashkelon without the help of Felix, but the Euroleague, which begins three days later, is the team's real concern.
"Felix will be a significant help in the rebounding and defensive play, which were weak in our preseason games," Tel Aviv coach Neven Spahija said on Monday. "We will try and get him into the thick of things in the next week. Our goal is to be ready in time for the Euroleague game against Malaga next week."
Tel Aviv, which reached the last three Euroleague championship games, is hoping to continue its European success this season, but will need a significant improvement in its play in the coming weeks if it's to emulate its recent success.
"We need time to practice together and everything will be OK," Spahija said. "It's going to be difficult against Cleveland. They lost two days ago against Washington and will want to win on Tuesday."
The game against the Cavalries will be the first chance for Maccabi fans to see Felix, who was excited about playing against an NBA club. "It is always special to play an NBA team, I'm looking forward to it," the 25-year-old forward said.
"I'm happy I got a chance to meet my teammates and for them to meet me. Now I just want to help as much as I can. I can't wait for the season to begin."
Yotam Halperin, who played with Felix at the Seattle SuperSonics training camp, is confident the American will improve the team. "Felix will help us a great deal," the Israeli international said. "He [Felix] is a player [who] brings to the court many attributes. It will take him a bit of time to get used to European basketball, but he is a fantastic player."
Felix is not expected to contribute a great deal in Tuesday's match, but even without him, guard Derrick Sharp is still hoping for a win against the Cavs. "I want to win every game. We don't play to lose," Sharp said on Monday.
"There is no point on concentrating on the fact that we will be playing 48 minutes because during the season we will be playing 40 minutes. We just have to be consistent throughout the game. We need to stay focused."