He’s Back: Baldwin makes home return in fine fashion in Maccabi win

Jan 12, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

While there were a number of familiar faces who made their return to Yad Eliyahu whether it was Israeli guard Yam Madar to legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic with Partizan Belgrade, it was no doubt Wade Baldwin’s comeback for Maccabi Tel Aviv that made the biggest and most important impact on the Yellow & Blue’s season to date.
 
Not only did the Maccabi come out on top 90-81 to not only move their record to 10-8 and begin the second round of Euroleague action on the right foot, but they also wiped out the 8-point differential from their loss in Serbia back in November and now hold the tie breaker.

When you add to that the delight of having Baldwin back in the lineup then you’ve got the perfect mix on hand at Maccabi.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


Although the Vanderbilt product’s statistics were a modest 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, his presence was felt in more ways than one. Baldwin provided a number solutions to his team that were definitely lacking over the past few weeks even though Maccabi finished the first round with a record of 9-8 which in itself was an impressive accomplishment understanding that head coach Oded Katash had built a brand new team.

From Baldwin’s point of view the time away provided other players the opportunity to rise to the occasion which many did to send the team to go up one game over .500 during his absence.

“Being out, it gave the opportunity for everybody to step up, play hard minutes and they did,” Baldwin told The Sports Rabbi immediately after the win. “The month that I was out we went 3-1. We got a road win against Milan and we played very well. This is a complete team and we said that from the start.”

“We said that in the summer that we have a good roster and that we will find our way. We have 11 new guys on the team and that is tough but we are 10-8 right now and that’s pretty impressive considering the circumstances, so we got to keep this going.”

Lorenzo Brown – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


With the guard back in the saddle, Katash will have more flexibility and a deeper, higher quality roster as well as yet one more ball handler which will also no doubt take some of the pressure off of Lorenzo Brown. Without the injured Baldwin, Brown bore the brunt of the guard duties in continental play and clocked in with more minutes than Katash would have liked, but when a player is out of action, others need to step up which is exactly what the Eurobasket Gold Medalist did.
 
It will take time for Baldwin to get back into tip top shape and that is always expected when a player is out for some time as his timing is off which was the case with the New Jersey native against the Serbian side. But once again that is to be expected and while the guard would have liked to have seen some of his 3-point shots fall, he is aware that it’s a work in progress.
 
“I’m moving really well, but 0-7 man from three that is just as bad as it gets but I am going to find it, it’s all mental really, I will continue to shoot, continue to find it and now’s the time to find a groove and I will,” Baldwin explained.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


Katash was not worried in the least about his shooting and is looking at the positives of Baldwin’s return to the lineup and what he offers to the team as a whole, “I’m not concerned that his shots didn’t go in. Wade was great from the first day, he’s fun to coach and he is so committed and it doesn’t matter what his percentages are.”
 
“He is a player that you can go to battle with,” the bench boss continued. “He’s very emotional and competitive which is something I really like. He is one of our leaders through the way he plays and his commitment. Even when he was hurt he was like that. It’s a joy and honor to have him with us.”  
 
Baldwin offers so much more than just his shooting ability. He is a hound dog on defense and doesn’t allow any easy baskets. He fights for rebounds and won’t give an inch, plus he can also pass the ball pretty well which he did nicely in the victory.

Jake Cohen and Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


“He had some great assists and some big buckets when we need them and like he always does he plays great defense,” veteran forward Jake Cohen explained in the festive lockerroom after the game. “I think it’s a great luxury to have a player like Wade. It’s going to take him a little while and even though he missed some shots, I think he played really well on both sides of the ball. That kind of energy and toughness that he brings is important for our team and we are really glad to have him back.” 

Captain John Dibartolomeo was also thrilled to see Baldwin return to action, “Wade is a very important player for us and he creates so much and he causes the defense so many problems. We are really happy to have him back.”
 
Now with the return of Baldwin, Maccabi is in prime shape to make their move in a pivotal month as they now sit in 8th place which would be good enough to get into the postseason. Of course, Katash would like to see his team continue to climb the ladder and taking the home win over Partizan is a good start especially after being blown out on the road at Real Madrid.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


In fact, Baldwin made his return in the ill-fated Madrid game as he took the first steps of his return which was not a pleasant to say the least, “Madrid, it’s tough. You travel 5.5 hours to Spain and you’re playing a super powerhouse that have incredible players and it’s tough when you start the game out 0-13 and we’re not making any shots and they come down and make 18-20 3’s, you’re not winning any games like that. We got caught again in Spain with guys coming out hot against us.”
 
But now with a win under their belt, Maccabi and Baldwin will look to build off of that with a busy month ahead. A home tilt against Tamir Blatt, Yovel Zoosman and Alba Berlin along with a number of road games including a pair in Greece as well as Barcelona on the front end of double week at the end of the month going into February where they finish a Spain swing at Valencia is no easy task.

However, first things first with a Friday night affair in Athens at OAKA against a struggling but dangerous Panathinaikos squad who almost took out Fenerbahce but ultimately fell at home in overtime.

Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman


“They’re playing good basketball,” a cautious Baldwin said. “I know they have 5-6 losses in a row and they are going through some struggles. But Panathinaikos is a tough team and have a good roster and it’s never easy to play in that gym which is as big as it gets, it’s a weird gym, so we got to be ready to go. We have a goal this month of winning games and we got to finish the job.”

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