Maccabi Tel Aviv faces Khimki in Russia on Friday night (20:00) and will look to get back on the winning track after three losses in a row. However, that won’t be an easy task for the Yellow & Blue as the Moscow based club will look to win their first game of the season as they will have their full squad at coach Rimas Kurtinatis’s disposal. Khimki has played without a number of players due to the coronavirus and injuries which decimated the team over the first month of the season as Alexey Shved, Janis Timma and Jordan Mickey have all been out of action.
One player who has featured in all four games thus far is Jonas Jerebko. The Sports Rabbi spoke to the Swedish international about his team’s season to date, what Alexey Shved brings to the table and the Euroleague’s decision to not postpone his club’s games as they did with other teams.
“I felt great going into the season and I felt we had a great team. But then injuries and COVID-19 started and then everything became totally different. We haven’t had a full team until now and we starting to get there.”
Due to the coronavirus, Khimki had to play competitive games with a very short roster when numerous players were out of action due to the pandemic. However, as per the rules of the competition at that time, any team which couldn’t field a squad of at least 8 players would be issued a 20-0 defeat. In Khimki’s case they had the required amount of players fit to play therefore the option of not playing the game would have resulted in an automatic loss.
This past week the Euroleague decided to alter the rule as voted on and approved by the clubs that teams such as Zenit St. Petersburg and ASVEL who couldn’t field 8 fit players because of COVID-19 would now be allowed to have their games rescheduled instead of suffering a 20-0 loss. This updated rule would also go into effect retroactively.
Khimki, who decided to play even with youth players are now 0-4 and have been in essence been punished for playing in games that perhaps they should have refused to and shouldn’t have fielded those younger players for. That way they wouldn’t have had the required 8 fit players and they would have benefited from the updated regulations just as Zenit and ASVEL did. However, per Euroleague regulations should they have refused to play the outcome would have been the same 20-0 loss as there were indeed eight fit players.
Jerebko was stark with his remarks about the unfairness of the situation, “It’s bulls—. Before we flew to Madrid the Euroleague didn’t let us reschedule and the club wanted to fight for a win instead of giving up. We went there with 5 guys and 3 juniors and put up a good fight. The Euroleague said it’s either you play or lose. But they gave other teams a chance. It’s bulls—.”
“Our general manager was there and he tried to reschedule the games but they didn’t let us and we made the decision to battle for the win. Then they go and say they can reschedule other team’s games?”
Due to the short bench, Jerebko has had to play a tremendous amount of minutes so far, but that hasn’t been a problem for the 2.08 meter big man, “I feel great and I came into the season in shape. We had a very long preseason and my body feels good and I feel comfortable. I’m just trying to help the team.”
One of Khimki’s stars Alexey Shved is slated to play against Maccabi and will make his 2020/21 Euroleague debut on Friday night. Obviously with the return of one of Europe’s finest, Khimki will be able to threaten any team in the continent explained Jerebko, “Alexey brings everything to the table. When teams double team him and extra attention is shown he will give find the other guys who will be open. He mixes up the offense by going to the rim. He’s the best player in the Euroleague when he plays right.”
As for the keys to defeat Maccabi Tel Aviv, Jerebko knows it won’t be an easy task as the club reloaded during the offseason, “Maccabi added some pieces last year and they got even better. Scottie Wilbekin is the head of the head of the snake and we have to stop him. They have many threats and are well coached. In order for us to win we have to play the right.”