Amar’e Stoudemire has switched from Red to Yellow & Blue. The 6-time NBA All-Star has signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv after beginning the season in China. Last year, STAT featured for Hapoel Jerusalem and was granted Israeli citizenship by the Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri in March making it seem that the big man would never play for another team in the Holy Land.
However, as the season wound down there was definitely winds of change in Stoudemire’s thinking process as he told me after his final home game with Jerusalem at the Arena in reference to an Instagram post, “It is what it is. Whatever I posted that’s what I was thinking. I was just reflecting on the great times I’ve had here in Jerusalem and I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get a deal done with this team. But I’ll be playing for sure next year.”
That was followed up by asking STAT if would like to play in the Euroleague? “It’s always about competing at a high level. There’s always minicamps in the NBA and there’s always Euroleague teams, there’s always high level basketball and to challenge myself to play at a high level is always the goal.”
Well Amar’e will have the chance to play in the Euroleague with Maccabi Tel Aviv, something that Hapoel Jerusalem could never offer him. In fact, both Maccabi and Stoudemire have a lot to thank Jerusalem for as he headed down Highway 1 from the capital city to the beachfront.
Had General Manager Guy Harel and Hapoel Jerusalem not been instrumental in helping Amar’e receive his Israeli citizenship last year, it would be very hard to believe that he would be playing for the Yellow & Blue right now. But with his Blue Teudat Zehut, Israeli ID Card, STAT becomes a perfect signing to help the team due to the injuries that have riddled the squad.
Coach Sfairopoulos said that they decided to sign Stoudemire once they knew that Omri Casspi was going to have surgery and would be out for the balance of the season. Add to that the injuries to Nate Wolters, John Dibartolomeo, Yovel Zoosman and Tarik Black and Maccabi had to make a move in one direction or the other.
Bringing in Amar’e who also goes by the Hebrew name Yehoshaphat, also opens up the possibility that Aaron Jackson will be registered for the Israeli league which would use up the team’s 8th foreigner slot. Sfairopoulos said that the club would only decide on the last import after the Derby which is slated for Sunday.
STAT fills a huge hole for Maccabi and his addition will also give his new teammates including 2020 NBA Draft prospect Deni Avdija and the fans a big boost as they head into the stretch run of the Euroleague regular season sporting a 14-6 record with 14 continental games to go. He also provides relief in the Israeli League with the Yellow & Blue stretching their roster thinner than thin but somehow have been able to keep a perfect record thus far.
Stoudemire had said on the record in the past that he would never play for another team other than Jerusalem in Israel but that is now by the wayside as Maccabi can offer a lot more to an aging Amar’e; the chance to play at the highest level, the Euroleague after not securing an NBA contract.
There is still the issue of Stoudemire’s ownership shares at Hapoel Jerusalem but as of now that shouldn’t stop him for playing for another team. The Reds fans are more than disappointed with Amar’e’s decision and management must be stunned and shocked to learn that he will now play for their arch rivals after everything that they had done for him during his time with Jerusalem, and there was plenty.
Whether it was the favorable practice schedule, the chance to travel aboard during the season, being able to sit and learn at Yeshiva or just sit down at a local cafe, the capital city squad offered plenty to Stoudemire. However, the Euroleague would not be an option should he have stayed or returned to Israel to play with the Reds. Now he has that chance and the chance to do something special with what is turning out to be a very special Maccabi team.
Amar’e won’t be offered the same situation he had from a personal point of view with the Yellow & Blue but he will be playing in what is the closest to an NBA environment, something that he had so badly wanted. Maccabi is the next best thing.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Jerusalem fans will react when they welcome Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Arena in March and I’m sure there will be plenty of catcalls and boos from the Reds faithful. Do they have the right? Yes, no question. They can be upset, feel betrayed and just down right angry as they see STAT in the Yellow & Blue uniform. However, they also have to realize that Stoudemire is arguably the most famous basketball player to grace the courts in Israel and he did help Jerusalem win a league title and for that they must be thankful. There will be indeed mixed emotions from the fan base.
Following STAT’s final Jerusalem home game last season, James Feldeine was asked what he thought of the Stoudemire situation, “Hopefully he stays. It’s a decision he has to make and I’m sure the club wants him to stay. I’m going to be here next season and I want to play another year with him. Everybody knows we want him back but he’s a little older and it’s not easy to be without his family here. And now he is Israeli so he can help us out in both leagues.”
Well, Feldeine will now have to face Amar’e on the hardwood as opponents and not as teammates. Plus he will be able to help a team in both the domestic league and in Europe, but that will be with Maccabi and not Jerusalem.
Both the on the court and off court battle between the two clubs have now heated up once again and the balance of the 2019/20 season will be very, very interesting. As they say, let the games begin.