(photo credit: Blake-Ezra Cole)
Maceo Baston became the latest Maccabi Tel Aviv player to choose the NBA over another season with the Euroleague powerhouse Friday when he signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.
Baston, a staple in the Maccabi lineup that won back-to-back Euroleague titles and reached the championship game last season, turned down more money from Maccabi to try his luck in the NBA. He joins Sarunas Jasikevicius, a teammate at Maccabi from 2003-05, in Indiana. Anthony Parker also left Maccabi this summer for a three-year deal with the Toronto Raptors.
Baston's departure leaves Maccabi with only one signed starter from last year's squad - center Nikola Vujcic.
This will be Baston's second stint in the NBA. He played in 16 games for the Raptors in 2003, before joining Maccabi.
He will likely be one of the team's primary backups for All-Star big man Jermaine O'Neal.
"He's a shot-blocker who can play in a fast-paced game," Pacers president and CEO Donnie Walsh told the team's Web site. "He's a veteran player in the sense he's had a lot of experience in Europe and has won championships over there. We think he's a candidate to come in and play right away."
Maccabi, which was already seeking replacements for Parker and point guard Will Solomon, now will need a power forward to complement Vujcic as well. The rumor mill already has linked former NBA players Marcus Haislip and Marcus Fizer to the team.
Reports in Croatia, new coach Neven Spahija's homeland, and Lithuania, where he last coached, have Maccabi interested in Croatian point guard Zoran Planinic of the New Jersey Nets, whom Spahija coached five years ago at Cibona Zagreb, and free agent shooting guard Ron Mercer.
Club chairman Shimon Mizrahi has confirmed that Maccabi entered talks last week with another former NBA player, guard Dajuan Wagner.