Where to go from here: Maccabi Tel Aviv has to look at its options to salvage season

Dec 23, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Maccabi Tel Aviv chalked up their seventh straight Euroleague loss, this time to Zenit St. Petersburg by the score of 73-71 in a game that was a microcosm of the issues that the Yellow & Blue have had over the last couple of months. Whether it was the lack of energy at the start of the game, tons of turnovers, missed defensive assignments, lack of clutch shooting or Scottie Wilbekin taking the ball and the game all alone on his shoulders. It was yet again a repeat performance of what we have all seen time and time again this season which resulted in another loss.

Jordan Loyd – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

Whatever Ioannis Sfairopoulos’s game plan is, if there is even one, is just not working. Add to that the fact that Maccabi comes out so flat to almost every matchup, the message the coach is trying to convey is just not getting to its intended address. The players have tuned out whatever directions their Greek bench boss is sending them on Waze.

One would think that after six losses in a row the team would be focussed and locked in to come out like a house on fire and play desperate basketball. At least, one would think. How Maccabi could play one of their poorest first quarters in the situation that they are in is unfathomable.

There is so much one can blame on the coach but the players also bare plenty of the responsibility.

Keenan Evans – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

Maccabi committed 19 turnovers, five of which coming from Keenan Evans who has been playing well of late collapsed in Russia and looked like a chicken without a head on Billy Baron’s game winning 3-pointer as he ran from one player to the next and finally back to Baron who he guarded on inbound. Xavi Pascual exposed the young guard’s inexperience on that play which he will be seeing in his dreams or nightmares for weeks to come.

Zenit took 13 more shots than the Yellow & Blue which means that Maccabi really should have been able to win this game if they only lost by 2-points. 13 more attempts at the basket.

Scottie Wilbekin – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

Sfairopoulos made sure to state that Maccabi had four options on the final play of the game when Scottie Wilbekin had the ball above the arc and then drove in for a layup that didn’t meet its intended target, the basket. The guard had teammates to pass the ball to but he decided to take it himself and clang the ball off the rimier yet another defeat.

Then there was players after player who came up empty all game long.

Angelo Caloiaro – 11:26, 0 pts, 0/2
Kameron Taylor – 18:48, 2 pts, 1/3
John Dibartolomeo – 7:47, 0 pts, 0/0
Oz Blayzer – 5:03, 0pts, 0/0
Ante Zizic – 14:41, 5pts, 0/0
Iftach Ziv – 2:41, 0pts, 0/0

7 points on 1/5 shooting from the field in just over 60 of the 200 game minutes. OMG!

How in the world is that possible? Well, it is. Just ask this year’s version of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Where does Maccabi Tel Aviv go now with a 7-10 record and 17 games to go in there Euroleague campaign.

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

Is there any chance that the Yellow & Blue can make the playoffs? Is it time to just tear it down for this season? What should Maccabi do now?

The chances Maccabi can make it into the postseason are very slim and they would need to go at minimum 11-6 in their final 17 games which is a stretch to say the least and almost an impossible task.

With that in mind the Yellow & Blue should have one main focus right now which is on the Israeli league and the State Cup while using the Euroleague to develop some of the club’s younger players and get them in shape to make a proper run next season.

Andrey Zubkov – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

If management would have wanted to make a major change as in letting the coach go, they most probably would have done so well before Maccabi lost their 7th game in a row. At this point it’s probably too late and the club will just wait to part ways with Sfairopoulos at the end of the season when his contract is up.

To bring a new coach in now would be most difficult as they would inherit a team that they did not build and would have a major learning curve. The only coach that could take the job right now and perhaps not have that much an issue is Oded Katash who I have been a big proponent of, but at this point it may be too late to make that change.

So if Maccabi keeps Sfairopoulos he should be tasked with using the Euroleague to give some of the younger players experience whether it’s Kameron Taylor, Iftach Ziv and Roman Sorkin while making sure that the club takes care of business on the domestic front.

James Nunnally – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

In order to give them more minutes the team can jettison a number of players especially with the Euroleague transfer deadline for players within the completion already coming up. Maccabi can afford to sell a couple of imports who can bring back some sort of financial return. James Nunnally and Derrick Williams fit that bill and Maccabi should see if they can get even modest financial return. The club has plenty of forwards and Dragan Bender will also be back sometime in the near future.

With the onset of the Omicron version of COVID-19 wreaking havoc on sports around the world including having one Euroleague game being postponed, there is no reason to think that there won’t be a bigger outbreak which will affect the league similar to what has been recently happening in the NBA. The government may limit the amount of fans that can attend a game which will also be a financial loss to the clubs.

So to start making “big” expensive moves where it could mean having to pay off a coach who won’t even be on the sidelines while paying for a new bench boss along with picking up new contracts even if it is possible, would seem to dent ownership’s wallet during an uncertain time.

Kameron Taylor – Photo Credit: Zenit St. Petersburg

At this point, Maccabi should cut their losses where they can, ride out the season as best as possible, win what they can win and then rip it down in the summer and rebuild with a new coach, new staff and with new players.

Maccabi is too late to make a decisive move for this season, the best they can do now is to plan for the future, but can they even do that?

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