Hapoel Jerusalem is a good team, actually they are a very good team. The Reds are well balanced from top to bottom whether it’s their guards, forwards or centers, coach Oded Katash and general manager Guy Harel did a spectacular job in finding the missing pieces to the puzzle that was left incomplete last season.
After winning the State Cup in February of 2019, Jerusalem was flying high and confidence was brimming in the lockerroom following the win. Can the Reds compete for the Champions League title and the Israeli league championship? Yes, there’s unfinished business, that was the answer. It certainly looked like Katash’s crew would be a threat for both of the remaining hardware, but they came up short on both occasions.
Changes had to be made, but the core of the team needed to remain intact along with the culture that had been created over the Katash’s first full season in charge. That was going to be non-negotiable. So if players like Josh Owens, Da’Sean Butler, Amare Stoudemire, Yogev Ohayon or Chris Johnson needed to go, the club had to replace them with better players but also those who would fit the team mold and culture. And that’s exactly what has happened whether it has been Nimrod Levi, Suleiman Braimoh, Trent Lockett, Idan Zalmanson or Mindaugas Kupsas, each player brings something different yet the same to the table.
However, one area which is crucial in my eyes is the role of the captain. We are all very well aware that last season Lior Eliyahu had plenty of problems both on and off the court with coach Katash.
Whether it was Eliyahu’s role on the court along with his minutes, his standing with the fans which at some times turned a bit sour or his ability to lead the team, it seemed that in all respects the role was limited, very limited and that’s not healthy.
Therefore, the last thing that needs to happen this season is the same type of issues that existed last campaign with new captain Bar Timor.
The 27-year old Haifa native has been with the Reds since 2014 when he returned from a year abroad with Alba Berlin and is the longest serving player on the team.
Timor has given his heart and soul for the team every time his number has been called. He is adored by the fans and earned even more respect from the faithful when he decided to stay with Jerusalem when he could have bolted for Maccabi Tel Aviv a couple of years ago.
He was not gifted the captaincy; he has earned it.
But it’s also crucial that his standing is such that he is also a player that is counted on by Katash which will then give the rest of the squad the understanding that there is a captain on the floor.
Last week, Timor didn’t take part in the first Champions League game in Turkey against Bandirma but he did come back with a vengeance on Saturday night in a 30-point win over Nahariya. The 6”3 guard scored 11 points, added 4 assists and 4 rebounds while drawing 3 fouls and going a +24, the second best on the team in 20 minutes of action. Last year in Israeli league play, Timor dropped 7.4 points and dished out 1.4 assists a game last year which was the lowest single season total of his career.
Over in the Champions League, Timor appeared in limited minutes playing in only 12 games and averaging 3.8 points.
It’s key for Timor to be an active part of the rotation regardless of the depth of the squad. He needs to be relied on and with that Katash will be rewarded with a confident player and one that can be a game changer. It doesn’t do any good when your captain is sitting on the bench playing as a glorified cheerleader.
I am aware that Katash’s job is to win games and he must find the right combination of players to put on the floor to bring home the victory. However, I can’t believe that a place can’t be found for Timor. Katash was clear in the pregame press conference when I asked him about Timor’s standing that he doesn’t make a decision prior to the game who will play and he has to see how the game goes. He also stated clearly that he can rely on Timor and that he knows that he will be there for the team if he is needed.
Timor himself told me at the press gathering that he doesn’t know what the plans are for the game and that it’s part of life to sometimes to have to be patient and come off the bench. He knows that he has to be ready at a moment’s notice and that it’s a long season.
That’s all true. But, if Katash wants to keep the team healthy he needs to truly rely on Timor. He’s a valuable commodity and can be his key to taking the team that won one title last season, to a club that will take home it all.