Maccabi Tel Aviv visits Anadolu EFES Istanbul in Turkey on Gameday 25 of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague. The Yellow & Blue currently sits in 8th place with an even .500 at 12-12 while the host’s are in last place sporting a 6-12 record. The last time the two met in Tel Aviv, EFES came away with a big 92-72 win thanks to a 31 point performance by Errick McCollum s the guard went 8/11 from beyond the arc.
Since their last game, EFES has undergone quite a transformation with a new coach in veteran Ergin Ataman, Derrick Brown, ex-Maccabi forward Sonny Weems and former NBA veteran Toney Douglas.
Douglas was drafted in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft with the 29th pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, but was shipped off to the New York Knicks that same evening. His best season was his second with the Knicks when he played in 81 games and averaged 10.6 points while dishing out 3 assists per contest.
After 3 seasons in the Big Apple, the Florida State product went on to play for Houston, Sacramento, Golden State, Miami, New Orleans and Memphis with a trip overseas to the Jiangsu Dragons in between. Douglas joined EFES in December 2017 and has averaged 9 points since his Euroleague arrival. Let’s get to know Douglas a but better and see how he’s been adjusting to life away from the United States.
Douglas began by talking about how his first European experience has been so far, “I’m enjoying it. Very different from the NBA just being overseas. Having a great time and my teammates are helping me adjust. Everybody has been helpful.”
There are plenty of differences between playing in Europe and the NBA as Douglas has found out, “The literal rules are different. No defensive 3 seconds over here. Just like how refs in NBA don’t call travels, referees here don’t call moving screens like NBA refs. Physicality is similar. Also, in the NBA coaches love to go with smaller lineups (small-ball) down the stretch whereas in Europe they don’t really do that.”
Just like most players, the Tampa Florida native had a number of role models, “Growing up idolized MJ (Michael Jordan), but in high school and college I modeled my game after Joe Dumars – I loved his versatility and how he played at both ends of the court, something that I take pride in doing.”
In college the guard made an impact in more ways than one by staying all four years at Florida State, “Amazing. There were lots of younger guys on the team, mostly freshmen and sophomores, and it was great to lead them. I’m very happy that I decided to stay all four years after contemplating leaving after my sophomore or junior year. Having that extra time to develop helped me in the NBA and having stayed for my senior year allowed me to become more ready for the NBA.”
Every basketball player dreams of having his name called on draft night and Douglas has the opportunity to hear his via former NBA Commissioner David Stern, “It was a dream come true. It’s something you dream about as a little kid. It was surreal.”
Getting drafted is one thing but adjusting to the NBA is another story as the 31-year old found out, “I had to find my niche. Not everyone is “the man” like in high school and college so you have to find and understand your role on the team. My niche was doing it at both ends of the floor and bringing intensity and physicality to the game.”
Of course the 6’2 Douglas had a number of exciting moments, one of which was playing in the 20145 NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, “I was able to play with Hall of Famers and future HOFers like Ray Allen, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. I also played with Norris Cole of Maccabi Tel Aviv and I’m looking forward to facing and seeing him.”
Is a return to the NBA in the future in the cards? “I’ll take it year by year which is what I’ve been doing my whole career. I’ve travelled around a lot in the NBA so after every season I evaluates my plans and that will remain my approach for the future.”
What did the Maccabi Tel Aviv coach and players have to say about the mental state of the team?
Maccabi Tel Aviv Head Coach Neven Spahija:
How does the mental aspect play a part in the team’s current situation:
“You can’t separate it, the physical condition and mental toughness. Mental preparation, it’s the most important part of preparation for an athlete and we saw the reaction against Nes Ziona. Sometimes you can’t realize how it’s happening like missing layups and simple situations and giving up 3s from 9 meters from the backboard. It’s happened this season 5 times in front of my bench. We won’t pay that much attention to that. We have to think about our players, how to refresh them, how to get them back to the same way. I don’t think my specific NBA experience is going to help, I think that my experience is going to help because I was in this situation so many times.”
Mental aspect of the game:
“The wall is both mental and physical. We’ve had a stretch of tough losses and that takes a toll on us mentally and physically, but it’s only up from here. We’re going to grow from this but mental is definitely something that goes alongside physical.”
Thoughts about EFES:
Obviously, Erick McCollum. He had a huge game against us. We’re going to watch our film on the new guys and see how they click and focus on what we need to do.
About Toney Douglas:
“I’m already pretty familiar with his game. It’s going to be a fun matchup matching up with guys with NBA experience and as a team we just need to focus on their key players which is most of the new guys. So we just stick to what coach tells us.”