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Is Haifa in the Winner League? Jerusalem’s Hill Gamble, Where to Acy & Zizic? Israeli Basketball 3-Pointers

1) How is it possible that on August 18th the Israel Basketball Winner League still doesn’t know how many teams will feature in the 2020/21 season? Will there be 12 or 13 teams? How is it possible that this has yet to be set? Well. let me explain.

For the past number of years the Winner League has featured 12 teams with the last place club being relegated to the Leumit League and the first place team in the second division taking its place. This season Maccabi Ashdod would be dropping down while Bnei Herzliya would be promoted. Simple, correct? Wrong.

The Israel Basketball Association controls the lower leagues including the Leumit League and they stated at the start of last season that the top 2 teams would be promoted to the Winner League, except the top flight never accepted the IBBA’s ruling which now leaves Hapoel Haifa hanging out to dry as the second team that would be promoted.

That leaves us where we are now with the Winner League saying there will be 12 teams and the IBBA saying there are 13. The league stated that they accepted the IBBA’s ruling but the full agreement had changed since then and they aren’t willing to sign off on an agreement that had changed and had been agreed upon. The IBBA is now saying that the league is playing games and should be ashamed of themselves.

As the argument continues, Hapoel Haifa has signed players and are preparing to play in the top division while players for all of the teams have already begun landing in Israel as they prepare for the upcoming season which begins mid-October.

Most probably this will end with some sort of compromise and with Haifa playing in the Winner League. At the end of the day the argument is really over, you guessed it, money and how the pie would be split. From the basketball point of view does it really matter it there are 12 or 13 teams in the league? Not really.

Dov Halickman Photography


2) I’m trying to figure out Hapoel Jerusalem, I really am. On Monday the club announced the signing of Malcolm Hill which seemed to be a huge catch as the Illinois forward starred last season in the VTB League for Astana and was the league’s runner-up to Alexey Shved in scoring. On the face this was a brilliant move, but in the afternoon hours it was revealed that Hill has an out clause for the NBA and the rest of the world.

In essence, Jerusalem brought Hill for the Champions League Final tournament and will then hope he will stay with the club for the balance of the season. This bears the right to ask the question, why bring in a player, have him train and work with the club for about a month and then potentially lose him afterwards.

Is it worth the investment? After speaking to a number of colleagues they feel that the move was worth the risk and the club hopes that the month in Jerusalem will convince Hill to stay. Plus the out clause period is very short and the NBA won’t begin until most probably December which leaves the club with a good chance to keep him.

Well, that’s fine and dandy but if I am a club like Jerusalem I would much rather know that I have a guaranteed player coming here to begin training for the entire season and not for what could just me around 30 days no matter how the odds favor Hill staying. Now for a month the question will hound the club, fans and media as to whether Hill will stay or go.

Does Oded Katash really want that on his head as he prepares for the BCL and the season ahead? I certainly wouldn’t. At the end of the day it’s a gamble and one that may affect Jerusalem’s preparation for the campaign ahead.

Dov Halickman Photography


3) Maccabi Tel Aviv have been operating on the slowly but surely path re-signing players including John DiBartolomeo and Angelo Caloiaro while bringing Chris Jones to fill a need. However, the big moves have yet to occur which will determine the future of Quincy Acy and the potential signing of Ante Zizic. The Yellow & Blue have done a nice job so far shoring up their squad for not only the upcoming season but the one after that as well with options for a 3rd also.

But the question now is that just as training camp is about the open up what moves will Maccabi make to close up the squad and how will they get Acy and Zizic to sign on the dotted line. There is word that Barcelona is interested in a player like Acy but the amount that they are reported to be able to spend is roughly the same as Maccabi’s offer. In Zizic’s case, Real Madrid is hot and heavy after the big man, but there is still some financial issues that need to be cleaned up in regards to Facundo Campazzo’s potential move to the NBA and the large buyout that will be paid to the Spanish club.

Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos can afford to wait a bit longer, but not that much longer as the Euroleague season is right around the corner and has to make a move to solidify the squad or else they may risk not being able to continue the fine work that they had done last season before the coronavirus.

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