Local Hoops: Morris moves to CSKA, Halperin to Olympiacos

The superior paying power of Europe's top clubs is making it hard for Maccabi to hold on to its better players.

yotam halperin 88 (photo credit: )
yotam halperin 88
(photo credit: )
It wasn't that long ago that Maccabi Tel Aviv was one of the bigger spenders in European basketball. How times have changed. These days, the superior paying power of Europe's top clubs is making it hard for Maccabi to hold on to its better players, not to mention bringing in the continent's prize assets. On Sunday, Tel Aviv announced that Yotam Halperin has been released from his contract for next season and is free to join Greek giant Olympiacos. The 24-year-old guard, who has established himself as one of Israel's top players in the last two years, is coming off his best season as a Maccabi player, averaging 10.2 points and 4.0 assists in 25 Euroleague games. Halperin's imminent departure is a further blow to new Maccabi coach Effi Birenboim, who has already had to come to terms with the exits of Terence Morris and Nikola Vujcic. As well, European champion CSKA Moscow announced on Sunday the signing of Morris, Tel Aviv's best player last season. The 29-year-old's excellent play was the one constant in an otherwise erratic Maccabi season, which saw the team lose in the finals of the Euroleague, BSL and State Cup. Morris, who signed a three-year contract at CSKA, averaged 12.4 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 25 Euroleague games, leading the league in blocks and finishing second in rebounding. He was selected to the All-Euroleague First Team and finished as runner-up in the voting for Best Defender. "Last season Morris demonstrated how valuable he is as a player, and we could see it during the Final Four in Madrid," CSKA CEO Andrei Vatutin told the club's official Web site. "I am very happy that CSKA managed to win the battle for this player against the biggest European clubs." Halperin, who is set to sign a three-year contract at Olympiacos, follows in the footsteps of Vujcic, who joined the Greeks last week. The Croatian, who left Maccabi after six seasons, signed a two-year contract with Olympiacos. "This is big step for me," Vujcic said of the move. "I spent six great seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv, but it was the right team for me to move and I think that Olympiacos is the best possible option. I am at a level that obliges me to stay on the top and Olympiacos gives me this challenge. I know coach Giannakis and I understand what he wants to build."