“There’s a sucker born every minute” Maccabi quotes ring hollow after 8th loss in a row

Dec 29, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

“We fight until the end”

“It’s just the little things”

“I think we are getting better each game”

“I think we are moving in the right direction”

These were a variety of quotes from Ioannis Sfairopoulos and Scottie Wilbekin following Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 8th Euroleague loss in a row with this defeat coming at Monaco by the score of 82-76.

Let’s face it, after eight straight losses, the quotes above just don’t reflect the reality of the sad situation that the once proud continental power Maccabi Tel Aviv once was.

The players aren’t fighting until the end, it’s not just the little things, the yellow-and-blue aren’t getting better every game and they are most definitely not moving in the right direction.

It’s very easy to send a quote via the press officer than to sit at the podium and field questions by journalists who want to find real life answers for the club’s followers and fan base. These comments are not a reflection of the reality that Maccabi Tel Aviv is in with a record of 7-11 after 18 European contests as well as a 7-4 Israeli league record which could have easily been the exact opposite at 4-7.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Maccabi, coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos and Scottie Wilbekin is trying to control the narrative but as the Hall of Fame NFL Head Coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” And that is the truth. There is no hiding from the standings as their season is sliding away into oblivion.

The yellow-and-blue started the season well and before this current losing streak which is now tied for the most defeat that any Maccabi team has had in Europe, Sfairopoulos’s team was churning along with a 7-3 record. But then, suddenly the train hit the brick wall with loss after loss first at Olympiacos then in Berlin and Madrid, at home to Kazan then back on the road at Fenerbahce, once again at Yad Eliyahu to Anadolu EFES, then in St. Petersburg to Zenit and finally to this week’s failure in the Principality of Monaco.

That is quite the European adventure and one that the team is so desperately looking to put behind them which is something that at least center Ante Zizic seems to understand and honestly stated in his post game statement, “When you’re on a bad streak, some shots that are supposed to go in, go out and you’re missing lay-ups and making some bad plays, but the toughest thing is is to stop the streak.”

Mike James – Photo Credit: Monaco Stephane Danna – Direction de la communication

The bottom line is that the players right now have zero confidence to do what they were brought to Maccabi to do which is to make winning plays, earn victories and advance to the Euroleague playoffs. The worst part about it is that there looks like no way out of the current situation as management has just sat on their hands and have done absolutely nothing. They have not brought in any new players (other than center Mathias Lessort as an injury replacement early in the season and has since departed), they have not released any players from the squad.

There is nary a word about replacing the coach while the optics that they are conveying to their loyalists is well, just non-existent. There has been no major movement by management as they continue to twiddle their thumbs and perhaps wait for a miracle to happen.

Eight Euroleague losses are equivalent to over 19 defeats in the NBA when looking at the amount of games that are played in each competition. I am not sure how many coaches and general managers would survive that streak if their teams had been built to go to the postseason. But yet Ioannis Sfairopoulos, Nikola Vujcic and Avi Even, the coach, the general manager and the head scout or architect of the roster remain in place with not a whisper of responsibility.

The fans have been patient, perhaps more than patient as they have returned in record Euroleague numbers to the stands this season at Yad Eliyahu but even they understand that the roster is not where it needs to be.

Ante Zizic – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

Scottie Wilbekin still controls the offense and Ante Zizic is still a scoring force inside, Keenan Evans who has been serviceable arrived in place of Chris Jones who has turned into a star for ASVEL Villeurbanne while Angelo Caloiaro is still offensively challenged. Derrick Williams has not played in the postseason in his Euroleague career, Jalen Reynolds has been inconsistent, Kameron Taylor and Iftach Ziv are not ready to play in Europe and Israelis John Dibartolomeo, Jake Cohen and Oz Blayzer have no impact whatsoever.

The only minor move Maccabi has made was to leave struggling James Nunnally in Israel after a number of issues.

That is Maccabi Tel Aviv in a nutshell.

On Saturday night, the yellow-and-blue head to the capital city for a date with Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Classico which could turn out to be very, very ugly for Maccabi as the Reds are arguably the hottest team in the league and lead the standings with a 9-2 record under interim coach Yotam Halperin.

Hapoel Jerusalem – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

Ironically, Jerusalem who began the season as one of the biggest disappointments in Israeli basketball when they struggled mightily under coach Oren Amiel began to make moves. First it was Halperin moving down from the front office and his sports director position to the sidelines to replace Amiel where he has turned out be exactly what the doctor had ordered.

Next it was to bring back Suleiman Braimoh who had been with Jerusalem for two seasons but was sent packing by Amiel over the summer as the big man signed with San Pablo Burgos in Spain. Then it was to sign a center in John Egbunu while jettisoning out two former NBA players who just didn’t in Thon Maker and Anthony Bennett. Noam Dovrat is also expected to join Jerusalem from Rishon Le’Zion in another savvy move by the club.

Maccabi on the other hand has done absolutely nothing.

Jerusalem will be chomping at the bit when Maccabi comes to town as they will look to avenge a pair of losses that they suffered this season, in the Winner Cup by the score of 81-65 and at Yad Eliyahu in league play 104-80. They have been waiting for the chance for payback and will have a wonderful opportunity to do so at home in front of their own fans.

Maccabi Tel Aviv – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Maccabi could probably think of a million places they would rather be than the Jerusalem Arena, but the blame for that lies squarely on management who allowed the situation that they are now in to grow and fester into an unstoppable snowball barreling down the mountain.

And that is why the quotes at this point ring hollow, very hollow as Maccabi continue to try and sell the public a bill of goods. As PT Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

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