Opinion: Dr. Hapoel and Mr. Jerusalem

It seems hard to believe that a team can play so tenaciously in one game and so listlessly in another, but that's the nature of the Hapoel Jerusalem beast of late. Going from a hard-fought State Cup victory over Bnei Hasharon Saturday night to an embarrassment in Russia just three nights later is hard to explain, even taking into account the difficult travel and temperature conditions involved. A Hapoel official apologized and told fans on the team Web site that none of the players had taken the game lightly. Good thing, otherwise a 100-point deficit would have been in the works. But hey, welcome to European basketball, especially the non-Euroleague version, where small out-of-the-way towns and freezing temperatures are part of the landscape, and quality clubs must simply adapt. Truth be told, Hapoel's up-and-down play has been an epidemic this season, but a 53-point loss is just inexcusable, and shouldn't be dismissed with a "weird games happen" shrug of the shoulders. Something has to be done. It's time for Coach Dan Shamir to simply reshuffle his foreign players, for starters. Rumel Curry, Anthony Roberson and Noel Felix simply are not the right stuff. None of them has supplied the kind of reliable at least 12-15 points a night that a European club must get from its foreigners, not to mention rebounding. What Hapoel needs is first someone in the mold of Will Solomon - a quality guard who can create on offense and who has spunk, who wants the ball when the game's on the line, challenges the other team to stop him and who can give point guard Dror Hajaj a break in running the team once in a while. Once that need is addressed, Jerusalem needs to bring in two trees underneath -- lean, mean rebounding machines who can block shots and score regularly underneath. The problem is that Hanukka came and went already, and no one is going to gift wrap such individuals for Hapoel, most likely not even Arkadi Gaydamak. And be sure that Shamir is as aware as most of us what his club needs, but money issues and other limitations could be blocking any such moves. That said, the coach needs to admit to himself that he failed with his foreigners, something coaches are often loathe to do. Curry may have been the class of the Italian league on offense, but clearly his injury has reduced his skills. Roberson hasn't been given as much of a chance as Curry, but clearly isn't the answer, especially when it comes to running the offense. So what to do about Dr. Hapoel and Mr. Jerusalem? Shamir must not only continue to read his team the riot act regarding the embarrassing loss, but push for at least half the needed formula, preferably the big man. Then once the much-missed Jamie Arnold returns, Jerusalem could still make a push for a place in the next round of ULEB Cup play, and be prepared for the tough State Cup semifinals and league championship games ahead.