Sfairopoulos and Maccabi need to right the ship both on and off of the court before the season implodes in front of them

Oct 18, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which Maccabi Tel Aviv players were going to play the bulk of the minutes against Hapoel Gilboa Galil. One didn’t need a masters degree to know that Iftach Ziv, Roman Sorkin, John Dibartolomeo, Oz Blayzer and Jake Cohen would be on the floor in Gan Ner and they certainly knew that themselves after not playing the in last Thursday’s Euroleague win at ASVEL Villeurbanne.

However, the way that they showed up and the defense that they played against a team that featured 3(!) foreigners would have made one think that this Maccabi team had no clue who they were up against and what they needed to do to take the win.

It was really a pathetic showing on the defensive end by not only the Israeli contingent but also from the rest of the team from Angelo Caloiaro to Kameron Taylor. Scottie Wilbekin, Derrick Williams and Mathias Lessort weren’t dressed so they were unable to save the sinking ship this time around, but with the players who were registered, it should have been an issue to find a way to win the game nonetheless.

Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

This is no knock on Gilboa, but just look at the club’s results to date and the roster that they had going up against a Euroleague team with a budget who knows how much more.

Ponder this stat for a moment. Gilboa committed a grand total of 4, yes 4 turnovers in 40 minutes. How is it possible that Maccabi couldn’t force the Galilee squad into more than 4! Quite amazing.

Let’s look at Gilboa’s 3-point shooting. How about 11/22 from 3-point land? Where was the perimeter defense?

“When we play away and we allow the home team to score 87 points, we have less chances to win the game,” a frustrated Maccabi coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos said immediately following the game.” We didn’t play good defense and we didn’t control the game from our defense. Our offense was good but defense was very bad. We made many defensive mistakes, tactical mistakes and we didn’t control the game.”

Sacha Killeta-Jones – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Maccabi allowed Sacha Killeya-Jones to shred them inside, they allowed London Perrantes to dish out 10 assists and they allowed Or Cornelius, a player who could barely get playing time last season under Brad Greenberg hit a trio of triples and clock in with double digits.

It was as if the yellow-and-blue figured that they could put it into 1st gear and cruise to the victory in an arena that they never seem to win in.

“We were not ready mentally to play a tough game even though we tried to prepare for this,” Sfairopoulos explained. “We knew they would play tough against us and that many players were not concentrated. This is the reason we didn’t play good defense.”

That was the last thing that the Israelis needed to do after being wiped out of last week’s Euroleague rotation. Wouldn’t they have wanted to impress Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and prove to him that they didn’t take riding the pine or not being dressed last week lightly. However, that didn’t seem to be the case.

Former Gilboa guard Iftach Ziv sounded distraught and shaky over the loss, “It’s not in the plan to lose anywhere and we will learn from this as well. I have to digest what happened here and they surprised us. This shouldn’t have happened.”

Now again it wasn’t just Maccabi’s Israelis that didn’t play up to par, the entire team just weren’t there but the optics on the blue-and-whites didn’t help their cause one bit.

Now there is also the fact that the Israelis could be just afraid to make errors on the court because they know that each mistake they will be lashed out at by the coach and be berated for those miscues. Don’t think that this is not a possibility. Players are human beings as well and have feelings just like the average Joe on the street.

Yovel Zoosman – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Look at how many times Yovel Zoosman was reamed out and look at where he is now, playing in Germany with Alba Berlin.

Every time the head coach shrieks at the players, it is just normal that their self-confidence will continue to drop. On one hand athletes should have the wherewithal to withstand that pressure, the yelling and screaming. On the other, who enjoys getting totally destroyed by the person who they need to produce for?

Sfairopoulos is under a ton of pressure to produce results and he knows it. The excuses from last season and COVID-19 are no longer going to hold any water and if he hadn’t won in France last week, who knows what his situation would be right now.

Ioannis Sfairopoulos – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

The players can be blamed by Sfairopoulos until the cows come home. They weren’t mentally prepared. They didn’t concentrate. They didn’t come to play with a fighting spirit. All true.

However, what responsibility does Sfairopoulos have in that preparation? Doesn’t the buck stop with him? Has he lost the lockerroom to some extent and needs time to build back up the team’s attitude?

That could very well be the case.

But right now he’s got to turn his attention immediately to two very winnable Euroleague games in Panathinaikos and Zalgiris with a home clash against Hapoel Jerusalem in between. The journey is getting no easier for Maccabi and Sfairopoulos will need to find a way to get the results plus make sure that the Israeli contingent can produce the way he needs them to. But something really needs to change and change quickly or this season is just going to implode faster than a speeding bullet.

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