“I’m excited to join such historic club. I am aware of the rich tradition and can’t wait to help add to that, hopefully in front of the great Maccabi Fan base”
The signing of Israeli TJ Cline by Maccabi Tel Aviv is a move that looks like it will only be a help to the club as the Yellow & Blue make a push for a playoff spot in the Euroleague as the season heads into the final third of the campaign. However, a deeper dive into bringing Cline on shows that he will in fact play a huge role in the Israeli league and that is where Chairman Shimon Mizrahi said his signing will be crucial.
Throughout the year Maccabi has said clearly that they will not be signing any new players. Bringing back Quincy Acy was ruled out and Maccabi was set to remain with the same squad, one which is deep but not as good as last year’s was. Cline’s arrival will help the team as he will slide into the slots vacated by Jake Cohen and Acy in the paint where he checks in at 2.06 meters and can play outside as well shooting 41% and 39% from deep over the last two Israeli league seasons.
Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos also understands that the club opened up its pocketbook by signing Cline and despite the fact that he isn’t an expensive addition, he is an additional salary nonetheless, “I want to thank the owners and the management for the signing of TJ Cline,” he said.
Cline will be a immediate contributor in the domestic league while he will work his way into Euroleague lineup with time explained Sfairopoulos, “He’s in the best age to make the next step and it was important to sign a player for the Israeli league but he will have to adjust to play in the Euroleague. I will give him the chances as he adjusts and improves for our system and I think he has the potential to be important in the Euroleague.”
Having won a State Cup with Hapoel Holon back in 2017/18, there’s no question that the Israel National Team member will be an asset for Maccabi right off the bat, “He is a player that with his energy and his efforts is coming to help the team to compete harder and trying to succeed in our goals. TJ knows the Israeli league.”
As Sfairopoulos explained, Cline is an energetic player but the most important part of his makeup has been his continued improvement and his very evolving basketball IQ as a player. In 2017/18, Cline averaged 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game after beginning the season with Galatasaray in Turkey before heading south to the Holy Land. In 2018/19, the forward’s numbers jumped to 10 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3 assists in 26 minutes per game whole last season Cline’s statistics took another leap up to 12.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 29.1 minutes per Israeli league game.
The 26-year old comes to Maccabi as a player that wants more after he began this season with Brescia from Italy, a team that featured in the EuroCup where he averaged 10.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 21.3 minutes. One must also remember that Cline was a crucial component to Holon in the Champions League as well, so he returns to Israel with a rich European experience and a player that is ready to take the next step.
However, Cline knows full well that he will have an adjustment period just as he had with Holon in his first year with the club and he’s also aware that Maccabi is the biggest team in the country, “I’m excited to join such historic club. I am aware of the rich tradition and can’t wait to help add to that.”
Cline doesn’t arrive as the savior but he will certainly want to make his mark in the Israeli league and perhaps later on in the Euroleague as the contract he signed is for the balance of this season with an option for the next. Minutes will be available as Omri Casspi misses his fair share of time and Cline could be a game changer in the battle for the Israeli league title with Hapoel Holon being their prime rivals to date. Coach Sfairopoulos now has the upper hand with a player in Cline who just months ago was a member of Holon.