Bar Timor the straw that will stir Jerusalem

Veteran guard and new captain leads Hapoel into early-season duel with arch-rival Maccabi Tel Aviv

ALMOST AS much as his on-court production, Hapoel Jerusalem will need to rely on new team captain Bar Timor (11) for his leadership abilities (photo credit: DOV HALICKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY)
ALMOST AS much as his on-court production, Hapoel Jerusalem will need to rely on new team captain Bar Timor (11) for his leadership abilities
With the Israeli Classico coming up on Sunday night between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem at Yad Eliyahu, hoops fans from around the country will be braced to see if the Reds can repeat their feat from the Winner Cup preseason tournament, where they beat the yellow-and-blue for the title.
Hapoel Jerusalem is a good team, actually it is a very good team. The Reds are well balanced from top to bottom, whether it’s their guards, forwards or centers, coach Oded Katash and general manager Guy Harel did a spectacular job in finding the missing pieces to the puzzle that was left incomplete last season.
After winning the State Cup in February, Jerusalem was flying high and confidence was brimming in the locker room following the win. Can the Reds compete for the Champions League title and the Israeli league championship? Yes, there’s unfinished business, was the answer given by all members of the squad. It certainly looked like Katash’s crew would be a threat for both of the remaining hardware, but they came up short on both occasions.
Changes had to be made, but the core of the team needed to remain intact along with the culture that had been created over the Katash’s first full season in charge. That was going to be non-negotiable. So if players like Josh Owens, Da’Sean Butler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Yogev Ohayon or Chris Johnson needed to go, the club had to replace them with better players but also those who would fit the team mold and culture.
And that’s exactly what has happened. Whether it has been Nimrod Levi, Suleiman Braimoh, Trent Lockett, Idan Zalmanson or Mindaugas Kupsas, each player brings something different yet the same to the table.
However, one area which is crucial is the role of the captain. All Hapoel fans are very well aware that last season Lior Eliyahu had plenty of problems both on and off the court with Katash.
Whether it was Eliyahu’s diminished role on the court along with his lowered minutes, his standing with the fans which at some times turned a bit sour or his ability to lead the team, it seemed that in all respects the role was limited, very limited and that’s not healthy for a successful team.
Therefore, the last thing the club wants to happen this season is a similar set of issues that existed last campaign with new captain Bar Timor.
The 27-year old Haifa native has been with the Reds since 2014, when he returned from a year abroad with Alba Berlin, and is the longest-serving player on the team. He began with Hapoel Haifa then moved to Hapoel Kiryat Tivon and on to Hapoel Tel Aviv before heading abroad and returning to the nation’s capital.
Timor has given his heart and soul for the team every time his number has been called. He is adored by the fans and earned even more respect from the faithful when he decided to stay with Jerusalem when he could have bolted for Maccabi Tel Aviv a couple of years ago.
He was not simply gifted the captaincy, he has earned it.
But it’s also crucial that his standing is such that he is also a player that is counted on by Katash, which will then give the rest of the squad the understanding that there is a captain on the floor.
Last week, Timor didn’t take part in the first Champions League game in Turkey against Bandirma and played under five minutes at home this week against AEK Athens. But sandwiched in between was Saturday night’s display in a 30-point win over Nahariya. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 11 points, added four assists and four rebounds while drawing three fouls and going a +24 while on the floor, the second best on the team, in 20 minutes of action.
It’s key for Timor to be an active part of the rotation in Europe as well regardless of the depth of the squad. He needs to be relied on and if that happens, Katash will be rewarded with a confident player and one that can be a game changer. It doesn’t do any good when your captain is sitting on the bench playing as a glorified cheerleader. 
Katash’s job is to win games and he must find the right combination of players to put on the floor to bring home as many victories as possible. However, a place must be found for Timor. Katash has clearly stated that he can rely on Timor and that he knows that he will be there for the team if he is needed.
Timor himself said at a recent press gathering that it’s part of life and sometimes you’ve got to be patient and come off the bench. He knows that he has to be ready at a moment’s notice and that it is a long season.
All that is true. But if Katash wants to keep the team healthy throughout the season he needs to truly rely on Timor. He’s a valuable commodity and can be his key to taking the team that won one title last season to a club that will take home many more.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents ( Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at