Aleksandar Dzikic’s Hapoel Jerusalem has cast some sort of spell on Maccabi Tel Aviv because it seems that every time the two teams face one another, the Reds end up on top which was the case in the Winner Cup Final where they took home the 79-71 win. It’s as if the Serbian has some sort of magic spell that he casts and poof, his team knows how to take out the country’s lone Euroleague representative time and tin=me again. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s at the Jerusalem Arena, Yad Eliyahu or the Drive In, Jerusalem who are now under new ownership than last season just don’t miss a beat.
While the preseason title is nice, it’s certainly not the be all and end all as to what may be coming down the pike the rest of the season as we just entered the month of October. There’s the State Cup, European competitions and the league championship all up for grabs over the next 8+ months, so this trophy’s significance has to be taken with a grain of salt as there are plenty of challenges to come.
The key going forward for Hapoel Jerusalem will be to take this title in proportion and then go and work on the next. That’s never easy, but there is no question that Dzkkic won’t allow his team to even think their season goals are done, no way, no how that would ever occur.
“I’m a big believer in reps, the process and practices and meetings, we need to add more of that. Even the final result we learned a lot playing a Euroleague team he we can learn from that’s. When they are super demanding and challenging we will come out of this game a little better. We don’t have talent on their (Maccabi) level but there are things that we can learn from.”
Jerusalem’s new captain Levi Randolph also expressed the same sentiments, “This has to make us hungry and we have to go back to practice and continue to work. Look at the mistakes and continue to build. We can’t predict the season but we can prepare each and every day and we can keep trying to jell as we want to be at our peak at the end of the season.”
Sure trophies are nice, but as Dzikic explained Maccabi was certainly missing some significant players, “If we want to be honest it’s helpful when they don’t play with Wade Baldwin and Josh Nebo. I’m not fooling myself but at the same time I’m not going to say my guys didn’t deserve to win.”
Jerusalem deserved to win without a doubt as they came into the second half down 43-35 with a fire in their eyes to stop Oded Katash’s team from scoring and that is what they did. They held Maccabi to a pitiful 21-8 frame and rode that to the victory.
The 3rd quarter Jerusalem blitz is below:
“I knew that we had to figure it our defensively,” Randolph explained. “That was coach’s message to us at halftime to bring more energy and effort, the team embraced it.”
Maccabi knew that the third quarter is what did them in as Jake Cohen explained, “A lot started with how we started in the third quarter, they picked up their defense and we didn’t match it.”
“We have to give credit to the Jerusalem defense,” Katash said following the game. “But there is also no question that we missed Baldwin. Lorenzo Brown isn’t in top shape just yet. Defensively we were fine although we missed some rebounds.”
Should the injuries to Baldwin and Nebo be significant enough for the pair to miss or not be 100% for the Euroleague opener on Thursday night against Partizan Belgrade, the yellow-and-blue will be in deep trouble because it’s clear how critical both players are and the depth of the team right now is questionable with some subpar performances.
Baldwin needed an injection to a stiff back prior to the game and he was seen walking very gingerly and slow after the final whistle when he went to the lockerroom.
“I’m concerned,” Cohen remarked. “I hope they get healthy really quickly, they are important and hope they will be ready by Thursday.”
Katash also expressed his concern, “We need everyone and have to come into the game healthy as we have to go into the Euroleague season in the best shape. I’ll still have to split minutes against a very good team with a pretty good coach (Zeljko Obradovic, Katash’s former coach and one of the greatest of all-time).”
While Maccabi will need to get their house in order ahead of their continental campaign, Jerusalem has their hands full as well with the Khadeen Carrington citizenship case still unresolved as the Israeli league season will get underway this coming weekend.
The guard didn’t take part in the Winner Cup because if the club would have registered him as an import that would have been his status for the entire season. So the wait is on.
“We are still in a period of calculated risk,” Dzikic said. “We are waiting for something good to happen and if it won’t happen we will look for something else. I said my opinion in a room a long time ago and you know I won’t share it.”
The bottom line is, as long as Dzikic is in charge good things will continue to happen at Hapoel Jerusalem because he demands a lot from his team and as Randolph said, he is never satisfied.
“His mentality, he’s a hard nosed guy and he’s about working hard and keeping his head down and working all the time. He tries to block out the outside noise and he only worries about what is inside the lockerroom. He pushes us and he’s never satisfied, after every win we are waiting of him to say something good, but for him he is nerve satisfied. He is always looking at how we can get better. That’s what makes him special because with all of the success he’s never satisfied and always looking for the next one in order to get better.”