Nes Ziona held a press conference about the resumption of the 2019/20 Israel Basketball Winner League seasons later in June. Chairman Yaniv Mizrahi, Head Coach Nadav Zilberstein and Captain Tal Dunne were present to answer questions via Zoom from the local journalists.
“We are very happy that we can return to play and we missed the game of basketball,” began Zilberstein. “We wanted to come back. We have three new players with a lot of upside. Obviously a few weeks isn’t really enough to put into place everything that we would like to, but we will need the help of every player and fitness coach to get the team into tip top shape.”
Nes Ziona brought in three new players to replace Daequan Cook, Corey Fisher and Jeff Withey who all didn’t return due to one reason or another. “Daequan was a big part of this team for three years and we also have to thank Corey and Jeff as well. We did some great things with that squad. But now there are some that we did which we made us more athletic than we were and in the back court. We have some quicker guards in Rayvonte Rice and Lindell Wigginton who can both put the ball on the floor, whereas Daequan was more of a shooter.”
One of the most interesting players that Zilberstein signed was Wigginton who starred for Iowa State and then with the Iowa Wolves of the G-League but has never played overseas. “We had to take some risk in the situation that we are in. From the conversations I’ve had with him he is mature and very intelligent. Lindell will be able to handle the challenge in Israel and has the desire to get to the highest of heights. For a full season you can teach a player and take time, but I have a good feeling that he can handle this challenge.”
Captain Tal Dunne was also happy to get back to business, “We’re all excited to get back on the court after being in the house for a couple of months and it was great to see the guys pick up the ball and get going again. It won’t be simple but the whole league is in the same situation. If this is what we have to do to bring basketball back then this is what we have to do.”
Yesterday the Euroleague Players Association sent a letter to the Winner League about their concerns primarily about heath and quarantine, “They have no connection to us and they had their financial deal which they decided not to come back and play and we did ours. I don’t know why they are complaining and this has no real impact on our league.”
Are there some real concerns about injuries? “There’s concern about injury and we want to make sure we stay fit and get into top shape in three weeks. We have been participating in a fitness program over the last month during the coronavirus but it wasn’t ideal. However, this was the situation.”
Yaniv Mizrahi, the club’s chairman also addressed the gathered media about his reasons about wanting to get back onto the hardwood, “My feeling from day one was to get back to playing because we have responsibilities to our fans, community, league and players. The financial side was secondary. Once we saw that we could do this, we worked to get the teams to come back as well. It wasn’t easy but I’m pleased that I was able to convince the other teams to join in returning to play.
“We are very happy that the league is returning and I’m sure we have a chance to do something really special at Nes Ziona. I want to thank everyone’s efforts. We will be the second league to return to play in the world and that isn’t something that should be taken for granted.”
There has been some options voiced by various players around the league and Mizrahi responded to that as well, “I didn’t feel good in seeing the comments by the Maccabi players. They knew what the conditions were. If they wanted to come back they could and if they didn’t then they didn’t have to return.”
Is playing in Europe next season on the table? “That’s a very tough question and we will have to see. We are doing the maximum and many are doing it voluntarily. We have been met with closed doors by the government and we don’t know how much we will receive in damages at this point. We will have to deal with this over the next couple of weeks as we will start the new league in October. As for Europe, I find it hard to see at this point but we will have to see what will happen.”