Yellow-and-blue can’t afford slip-up at last-place Belgrade

Maccabi counting on Greek center Sofoklis Schortsanitis to regain top form.

Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi (photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Eran Zahavi
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
Sofoklis Schortsanitis will be back in Euroleague action for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Thursday night, but it remains to be seen which version of Sofo arrives at Red Star Belgrade’s Kombank Arena.
The Greek center missed last week’s win over Panathinaikos at Yad Eliyahu Arena and the State Cup final against Hapoel Jerusalem earlier in the week due to an ankle injury.
Maccabi’s management and coaching staff were extremely unhappy that Sofo didn’t even attend the cup final or the team’s celebrations that followed, choosing instead to remain at home.
There have been reports connecting Sofo’s disappearance to his displeasure with the fact that he is still being paid a reduced amount and not what he was set to receive under his original contract.
Schortsanitis missed Maccabi’s entire preseason and didn’t take part in its BSL opener after failing his medical last summer due to high blood pressure, being overweight and the surgery he needed to treat glaucoma in his eye.
Maccabi agreed to keep him on the roster, but handed him a diminished salary until he met certain conditions. He has yet to satisfy them, in particular due to his difficulty to lose weight. Nevertheless, he is averaging more minutes per game compared to last season (15.0-14.0), resulting in his current frustration.
Sofo played just four minutes in Monday’s BSL win over Maccabi Ashdod, but had one of his better games of the season when the yellow-and-blue hosted Red Star two months ago, finishing with 15 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes.
“We are not sure where Sofo’s form currently stands, but he is clearly a force against Red Star,” said Maccabi coach Guy Goodes.
“He can come in without practicing and have a great game.”
Maccabi (6-2) reclaimed second place in Top 16 Group E with a 73-70 win over Panathinaikos last week and is confident of making it four wins in eight days over all competitions on Thursday.
Maccabi beat Red Star 78-67 at Yad Eliyahu in January, with the Serbians currently occupying last place in Group E after winning just one of eight games.
“I don’t think it would be correct to label Red Star as a minnow,” said Goodes. “This is still a team which is very difficult to face, especially on the road.”
Belgrade is led by Boban Marjanovic, who leads the Euroleague in average performance index rating (24.2 per game) and in rebounding (10.1 rpg).
Marjanovic has recorded a league best 11 double doubles this season, including in each of his last four games.
“Red Star may only have a small chance to advance but they have a lot of pride,” added Goodes. “I hope our busy schedule doesn’t take a toll. We need to put everything aside for 40 minutes because we can’t afford to slip up in the Euroleague.”