Winning is the only thing at Maccabi Tel Aviv

Sep 29, 2022 | Holyland Hoops

After celebrating the Jewish New Year, Tuesday night marked the start of the new season for Maccabi Tel Aviv, as it played its first pre-season game on home soil in the quarter final of the Winner Cup – an 85-75 victory over Hapoel Gilboa Galil. There were a number of new things on show for the yellow and blue faithful who made their way to Hadera’s Enerbox Sports Palace, including a new coach, an entirely new group of foreign players and even new threads.

However, one thing that does not change is the high (and arguably unfair) expectations that the Maccabi fans have for their team, and there is already grumbling from disaffected fans on social media calling for changes to be made even before the season starts.

While it was positive for the team to get the win, it was far from a certainty during the first half, when Gilboa Galil lead by as many as 11 points.

Oded Katash – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

“We made adjustments and with that I’m happy,” head coach Oded Katash said in the press conference following the game when responding to a question about the poor shooting and quality of shots in the first half and the change to the second half. “Second half, our defense was much better. Also in attack we were more accurate. I am happy. Like I said, I’m happy about the win.”

Jake Cohen had similar feelings about the victory, “I thought we had a really good half defensively, it started there. And we were able to play more of our game offensively as a result of that.”

There is, however, a long way to go and Maccabi cannot afford to let better-quality teams get out to such big leads so early on in the game. And it’s not every game that the elder statesmen of the team such as Guy Pnini (3 rebounds and 2 assists in 16 minutes) and John DiBartolomeo (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in 22 minutes) will be able to help the team claw back purely with their presence on the court like they did on Tuesday night – especially against better-quality teams.

Jake Cohen – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

So what can Maccabi look forward to tonight’s Winner Cup semifinal clash against the reigning Winner League champions, Hapoel Holon?

For one, the team’s star signing, European champion Lorenzo Brown, will suit up for his first game in yellow and blue, after only joining the team last week following Spain’s victory in the Eurobasket. Katash – like the crowd who applauded Brown as he watched Tuesday night’s game on the sideline – seems excited to have him join the team and the orderly play that he will hopefully bring. “I think that Lorenzo joining, another guard next to Wade, when he is on the court, as you’ve seen, you know Lorenzo, he’ll bring some order, and then everyone will look better.”

Will the team be able to get things right in time for the start of the EuroLeague? “We know we’ve got a long way to go, a lot of things to improve,” Cohen observed. “But for the end of September, that’s how it usually goes.”

Darrun Hillard and Wade Baldwin – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

That may be so, but with only a week to go before the opening Euroleague game against Zalgiris, Katash will hope that his team can quickly gel together and implement his vision on the court. Otherwise, the minority of disaffected fans will only grow, as Maccabi’s unforgiving supporters will urge management to make changes sooner rather than later, as they have done in recent times, to do what they can to become one of Europe’s top teams again.

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