PREVIEW: “What I’ve seen is what I expected” – Coach Sfairopoulos talks Ante Zizic, No Fans, Marathon Season and More as Maccabi Tel Aviv readies for Euroleague play

Dov Halickman Photography

Maccabi Tel Aviv tips off the 2020/21 Euroleague season on Thursday night when they host Alba Berlin at Yad Eliyahu at 21:05 Israel time. The Yellow & Blue will begin the 34 game continental season looking to pick up where they left off when the last campaign was cut short back in March due to COVID-19.

The upcoming season can definitely be described as unique due to the coronavirus as no fans will be allowed to attend the games in Israel. That may change over time, but one of Maccabi’s biggest advantages has been taken away as the faithful will have to root from their homes and not 11,000 strong intimidating the opposition. “It’s not easy to not play without fans,” explained Head Coach Ioannis Sfairopoulos at the pre-game press conference. “We won’t have our fans and we want to play in front of our audience and give them the excitement of the game.”

Despite not having supporters in the stands, Sfairopoulos was able to look at the bright side of the situation that will potentially be a help to the team going into the new campaign, “One positive has been that we kept the main core of the team and this is important. The budget is less so it was hard to keep the players with us. But this was a success of the owners and management to keep most of the players we wanted to keep.”

“We will have charter flights which will minimize the risk of getting infected and it will save a lot of time. We will have more time to rest and be ready for the next game. We have to be safe and you saw what happened with Maccabi’s soccer team. If that happens to us it will be a disaster. It’s a marathon and we need to win games and improve as we move along.”

Another factor that may play to Maccabi’s favor is that the club has already experienced playing during the coronavirus whereas as many teams did have not, “We participated in the Israeli season during the coronavirus and that’s important for the mental side as we know how to react and overcome the psychology of the quarantine.”

However, on the flip-side Maccabi began preparing for this season later than others, “Last year we finished late and our preparation began later than the other Euroleague teams. We will try to find our rhythm as fast as we can but I don’t want to find excuse. We are Maccabi Tel Aviv and our goal is to win all of our games. When you go and play the game you have to be mentally and physically strong and overcome the challenges in the games ahead. I believe in my team and we will go to the war.”

A couple of new additions to the Yellow & Blue are NBA veterans Ante Zizic and Dragan Bender with the latter signing a short term contract just this week. Sfairopoulos understands that it’s going to take some time for Bender to get into the groove and back into playing shape, “Bender will need 2-3 weeks and hasn’t played since March. He will need to learn and understand the system.”

As for Zizic, who was arguably one of the biggest signings across the continent during the offseason, has been just what the doctor had ordered, “I was very happy when we signed him as he can give us power in the paint as well as one more dimension to our game. He can play midrange with his back to the basket and is a very good screen and roll player. Our length is bigger and higher now and we want to take advantage of that inside the paint. He fits really well into our system and what I’ve seen is what I expected from the beginning. He’s young and ambitious and wants to help the team succeed and reach our goals.”

Alba Berlin is in a similar spot like Maccabi with a good base of players returning including their head coach Aito Garcia Reneses. As such, Sfairopoulos understands that the German squad will provide a stiff test right off the bat, “Alba is a very good team and they have kept basically the same roster from last year. They have athletic and young players who can score and kill you along with a long rotation. We respect them.”

There are a number of injured players including Omri Casspi, John DiBartolomeo and Yovel Zoosman who won’t be available until November said Sfairopoulos, “We don’t want to risk the injured players and rush them back. I believe that we will have them all back in November. They may practice with the team earlier and then we will see, 15 days minimum as they are recovering from serious injuries.”

The bottom line is that the Euroleague season won’t be a sprint, “This season is completely different. It’s a marathon of games and it will be even harder to perform; the toughest and smartest will be the ones who will be successful this season.”

Düzce escort Tokat escort Osmaniye escort Kütahya escort Mardin escort Van escort Yalova escort Şanlıurfa escort Kars escort İznik escort Kağıthane escort Sungurlu escort İzmir mutlu son
Düzce escort Tokat escort Osmaniye escort Kütahya escort Mardin escort Van escort Yalova escort Şanlıurfa escort Kars escort İznik escort Kağıthane escort Sungurlu escort İzmir mutlu son
Düzce escort Tokat escort Osmaniye escort Kütahya escort Mardin escort Van escort Yalova escort Şanlıurfa escort Kars escort İznik escort Kağıthane escort Sungurlu escort İzmir mutlu son
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