Rising to the occasion: Maccabi has a national responsibility as they ready for Milano

Oct 31, 2023 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Milano on Tuesday at 21:30 as they look to get back onto the winning track after having lost at Monaco last week.

While the Yellow & Blue are 2-2 this season their performance in the Principality was not up to par on many levels especially in terms of energy. However, there is no question that the situation that the team is facing in the shadow of the war against Hamas is difficult beyond words, but that also doesn’t mean that as professionals they can just mail it in.

There is still plenty to play for in the EuroLeague with 30(!) games remaining. The top 6 teams automatically make the playoffs while places 7-10 will participate in the Play-In; the bottom line is there’s lots of basketball to be played.

Alpha Diallo – Photo Credit: AS Monaco Basket

The way Maccabi looked last week in Monaco was as if the season was done, over, finished, kaput and that can not happen again. The fans, the people of Israel expect more on a regular basis but now they don’t just expect it, they need it and need it badly as the nation suffers from the devastating attacks by Hamas. 1,400+ dead, 240 being held hostage, cities across Israeli under attack from the south by Hamas and the north by Hezbollah.

Just as the ball was being thrown in the air in Monaco sirens rang out blaring across Tel Aviv and the center of the country, sending millions to bomb shelters and safe rooms. Some had their phones with them and watched the game from the comforts of well not exactly the most comfortable of places and what transpired on the court didn’t help anybody’s spirit.

That can’t happen again and head coach Oded Katash knows that full well, “We are coming into this game after one that we did not come in with proper energy as well as basketball. We have to find that energy and lift ourselves up despite the complicated and not so simple situation just as we did after the Valencia game and before we played Panathinaikos that’s what I want us to do against Milano. Of course our thoughts are with the people back home, the soldiers and our fans and we want to look better for them and win.”

Antonius Cleveland – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Antonius Cleveland who has been playing well in his first Euroleague stint and is one of the defensive anchors of the club feels that that side of the ball will be the key point in succeeding against Milano.

“Let our defense lead to our offense and enjoy our game,” Cleveland said. “We enjoy the game when we are playing free. Our keys defensively are to guard without fouling, rebound the ball well and stick to player personnel.”

While it’s unclear that Ettore Messina’s star forward Nikola Mirotic will play due to an Achilles issue, Katash understands that the opponent will be a very tough one.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Yehuda Halickman

“Milano will present different challenges in size and they are very disciplined. The keys will be to reduce our turnovers which is something we have been doing too often in the recent past and control the rebound on both sides of the court which will not be easy. They count on two very dominant players in Shavon Shields and Nikola Mirotic and we will have to put in a real team effort in order to stop them.”

Maccabi will no doubt have to be very locked in from the beginning of the game just as they were in Athens and can’t come in lackadaisical as they did in Monaco. There are no excuses for that as the country has pulled together as all for one and one for all. Families have dedicated themselves to the country, whether one is in the army, volunteering in many different aspects of the war effort from packing food to bring to the frontlines, watching young children, promoting Israel to the world or arranging trips for visitors to come and stand with the people in the country to give them support, Chizuk.

We are a strong nation and we will win this war come hell or high water. All the people of Israel wants to see from Maccabi is an honest effort, win or lose. The initial shock is over, the foreign players obviously didn’t bargain for having to live in Belgrade or whatever other country the club will be in. They all wanted to be in Tel Aviv and we all get that. The situation is not pleasant for everyone and that is the truth.

Maccabi – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman.

Sure the players would have signed with any other team had they known what was going to occur on October 7th and sometimes life just isn’t fair, we all know that. But someone’s real character will come out in the time of despair and when one is stretched to the limit. This is the time that the Maccabi players need to step up to that challenge that is in front of them as difficult that it may be, because what happened in Monaco last week just can’t happen again.

It’s got to be all for one and one for all whether it’s Maccabi, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Jerusalem or Hapoel Holon. They all represent Israel and the Jewish people whether it was before the war or now even more so during the war.

They have the responsibility to give the people a bit of joy and comfort even if it’s just a couple of hours as a break from reality, a reality that right now is a very, very difficult one, that why they all need to rise to the occasion.

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