1) Angelo Caloiaro came back and came back with a vengeance for Maccabi Tel Aviv. After not dressing at all this season, #4 returned to the lineup after injury troubles sidelined Omri Casspi and Tarik Black. And boy what a return he had. In 17+ minutes, the big man scored 9 points, 5 rebounds and finished the night with a 16 efficiency rating. How did it feel? “It felt good and it was a long, long summer for me. It’s been awhile but I was happy to get back out there. I’ve been here and the guys have been unbelievable. I’m practicing and I’m getting my workouts in. Obviously game shape is a little different and I was pretty tired out there, but besides that I felt good.” Of course, being in Caloiaro’s situation wasn’t easy and can be mentally challenging as well.
2) Coach Sfairpoulos was also happy to have one his players on the court, “It was very important for us and I want to thank the owners to give us the chance to use him. We know each other and he has quality. He’s a player that has worked humbly throughout this whole period as he practiced himself when the team was on the road. You saw how big a heart he has and from now on he is one of us.” Jake Cohen also chimed in about Caloiaro’s performance, “I can’t say enough about it. I can’t imagine being in his situation, being in limbo not knowing what’s going on but being the ultimate professional throughout working hard and staying ready which you saw the result against ASVEL. That is so hard to do what he did and he deserves all the credit as all the kudos.” One of Maccabi’s young guns Sandy Cohen III was able to watch how Caloiaro carried himself over the last few months, “You just got to stay ready for your moment and Angelo did a great job out there. He’s always working extra whether it’s conditioning or workouts. He came in and okayed very well today and did a great job. I’ve been able to learn from him and do a number of workouts together and I try to learn as much as I can.” Finally how was Caloiaro himself able to handle such a difficult situation? “It was just staying positive, continue to get into the gym and work to be ready when your number is called.”
3) Yovel Zoosman also came back and came back with a vengeance as his shots fell time and time again. Zoos had had a number of chances throughout the past few games and he just could never get into a proper rhythm. His shot was off as the ball would rim in and rim out or just plain old hit the rim. However, against ASVEL he went 3/5 from beyond the arc, grabbed 4 boards, and dished our 5 assists. “I work very hard for these opportunities whether it’s extra time before or after practice. I do whatever I can to be confident in myself and do that as best as possible.” Coach Sfairpoulos also commented on his showing, “Every player has our credit and we believe in them. They can all help give Maccabi wins and titles. We want to show that we believe in them and we know that players won’t be stable for the entire 10 months. Zoosman had a drop after a good start and it’s normal that this would happen. Against ASVEL he began to find his rhythm again,”
I asked Coach Sfairpoulos about how challenging the next week will be with two domestic league games before Maccabi plays Bayern Munich next Thursday and he was delighted that I did. Why? Because he was able to rip the WINNER League to pieces for scheduling two league games sandwiched between the ASVEL and Bayern Munich Euroleague games. Sfairpoulos was sheep with his comments offering as well comparisons of other leagues as well. “I think this is the only league that doesn’t help the teams in their European games. This is not just Maccabi, but all the teams in Israel including Hapoel Jerusalem. In all of Europe, the domestic leagues help the teams represent their country but not here. In Greece when the Euroleague schedule is announced then the Greek league asks the teams like Olympiacos and Panathinaikos when they would want their game on Saturday or Sunday. In Russia there may be games in Siberia and because it’s far away from Moscow they always play that before the Euroleague to avoid the game. I don’t see this same respect when Israeli teams represent their country in European basketball.” The League came out on Friday morning going after Sfairpoulos saying that he didn’t do his homework saying that the league and the teams do work together on the schedule and that they do everything within its power to help the Israeli teams participating in continental competitions. The league also showed the ASVEL schedule with two league games before a Euroleague tilt in Friday at Zenit St. Petersburg.
Deni Avdija and Theo Maledon faced off against on another for what was most probably the first time as professionals. Avdija is slated to go within the first half dozen picks in the NBA draft this coming June, while the Frenchman should go around 9-12. Both players were in the starting lineups for their respective teams and it looked like Avdija was going to get the majority of playing time after featuring for 8 minutes in the first frame and Maledon much less, however, that end duo not being the case. Avdija stayed on the bench pretty much until the 4th quarter with 3:30 remaining for a total of a dozen minutes and 4 points while Maledon ended the evening playing 21 minutes and scoring 10 points. Does that indicate how these two will do once they are in the NBA? Absolutely not. But it certainly was fun to see the matchup of two potential future lottery picks.
The short interview with… Theo Maledon.
After the game a number of journalists had the chance to speak with Maledon about a number of topics:
Being on the court with another potential lottery pick:
“It was a little bit emotional but once I started playing I didn’t think about it.”
Do you know Avdija?
“Not really I never really spoke to him.”
Relationship with another top French prospect Killian Hayes:
“That’s my guy. We’ve been together for a long time whether it’s the French national team or playing against each other like we did last year, he’s doing a really good job in Germany and I’m proud of him.”
Playing in the NBA next season:
“For sure and I hope I’ll have a great year there (NBA) but first I have to focus on this year as the Euroleague is a big project too as well as the the French League. But I’m really excited what’s going to be next year.”
Proving that Euro projects can play in the NBA:
“I have to show to other people that a European prospect can play. The Euroleague is the second best competition so it’s very competitive but I really have to show that I can play.”
Jake Cohen notched his Euroleague career high with 16 points on a night that everything fell nicely in the fourth quarter as the Davidson product scored 14 points in the final frame. “It felt great. Firstly it was good to see the ball go in from three as I haven’t been shooting the back very well in the Euroleague so far. To see the ball go in was a big relief. I thought our guards did a great job finding me and I had so many easy buckets because of their hard work. A lot for credit goes to them.” Cohen also looked back at how much they wanted to come into the game and pick up the win, “I think you saw a lot of frustration coming out in a positive way. We weren’t very happy with how we played all of last week especially against Jerusalem and we wanted to show that we are a better team and to a man I think we did so tonight.”
Sandy Cohen played most of the fourth quarter as well and bit did he make his presence felt. With two month jams especially his final one of the night igniting the crowd, boy oh boy can Sandy jump, “Tyler Dorsey gave me a great bounce pass, I’m happy that I was able to finish the play off and get some minutes out there.” Cohen also talked about getting over the 3-game losing streak, “It was big time to get our rhythm back and start a winning streak again as well as getting over that losing hump. Once you lose it’s hard to turn it around but we were able to do that.”