Mac TA drawn with Siena, Malaga in Group B

Maccabi’s toughest opponent in Group B will be Italian powerhouse Montepaschi Siena.

Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv's David Blatt 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt was given much-needed time to rebuild his team on Friday after the yellow-and-blue was handed a favorable draw in the Euroleague regular season.
Maccabi’s toughest opponent in Group B will be Italian powerhouse Montepaschi Siena, with Unicaja Malaga also likely to have a relatively strong side.
However, Alba Berlin, Prokom Gdynia of Poland and Chalon-Sur-Saone of France are not expected to cause the new-look Tel Aviv much trouble, with a place in the Top 16 already looking all but guaranteed considering the top four from each of the four groups will advance to the next stage.
The Top 16 will have a new format in 2012/13, with the teams to be split into two groups of eight and the best four to progress to the playoffs after a 14-game round robin.
The regular season will get underway on October 11.
Last year, Maccabi made panic driven decisions when it assembled its roster, worried that it might not even qualify for the Top 16 following what it deemed to be a difficult regular season draw.
However, Tel Aviv will have no such concerns this time, allowing Blatt to overhaul the team without too much pressure.
“This is a comfortable draw when you consider the alternatives,” Blatt said.
“However, I don’t think it is a good idea to get complacent. We are building a new team and it would be best to complete the roster as soon as possible so that we will have time to gel before the crucial stages of the season.”
As things currently stand, Guy Pnini and Devin Smith are the only significant players guaranteed to continue for another season.
Lior Eliyahu and new signing Sylven Landesberg are both under contract and are expected to play for the team next season.
However, they will try their luck with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Summer League later this month and can leave if they are offered an NBA contract.
Georgian center Giorgi Shermadini and American guard Ricky Hickman will be two of Tel Aviv’s new faces, with American forward Nik Caner-Medley close to completing his move from Valencia and Yotam Halperin set to return home after four seasons abroad.
Alex Tyus, who recently received Israeli citizenship, is also in negotiations to join Maccabi.
Question marks remain regarding the future of Shawn James and Tal Burstein, who is considering retirement, while Yogev Ohayon and Maccabi look set to meet in arbitration after the 25-year-old guard requested to leave following the yellowand- blue’s refusal to give him the raise he expected after a breakthrough season.
Also Friday, Hapoel Holon was drawn into Group H of the EuroChallenge with Antwerp Giants of Belgium, Telekom Baskets Bonn of Germany and Armia Tbilisi of Georgia.
The regular season tips off on November 6, with the top two from each group to advance to the next stage.