Turkish Airlines Euroleague
April 20, 2014
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Team Focus: Maccabi Electra
October 14, 2011
2010-11: 16-6, Final Four
2009-10: 11-9, Playoffs
2008-09: 8-8, Top 16
2007-08: 18-7, Final Four
2006-07: 13-10, Playoffs
2005-06: 17-8, Final Four
2004-05: 20-4, Champion
2003-04: 17-5, Champion
2002-03: 11-9, Top 16
2001-02: 14-7, Final Four
Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv steps into a new Turkish Airlines Euroleague season with the same goal as always: Winning it all! Over the past 10 seasons, Maccabi has been to six Final Fours, reached five title games and walked away with two trophies. Last season the club came together quickly, overcame injuries and marched into the Euroleague final. Head coach David Blatt has seven key contributors from that squad back, including All-Euroleague center Sofoklis Schortsanitis, but the team has also reloaded with some big names, including former Euroleague MVP Theo Papaloukas, two-time All-Eurocup First Team selection Devin Smith and shot-blocker extraordinaire Shawn James. A change in leadership should not slow down the team either: Tal Burstein took the captain’s role from Derrick Sharp, who retired from active play to assume an assistant coaching position alongside Blatt. With the tremendous support of the Tel Aviv fans, the writing on the wall says that this could be another outstanding year for Maccabi Electra.
The Maccabi backcourt oozes versatility with four players who can handle playmaking duties and three players that are practically interchangeable on the wings. Alhough two-time Euroleague champion Papaloukas – the competition’s career leader in assists and steals – has been the ultimate sixth man throughout his career, his experience will be valuable in preparing three rookie point guards for the task at hand. Jordan Farmar and Yogev Ohayon are pass-first guards, who can also get to the rim. Farmar, who looks poised to start at point guard, could also use his scoring ability to play alongside Papaloukas. Likewise Jon Scheyer has the skills to play either guard position and the basketball IQ to help the team whether through shooting, passing or playing tough defense. Smith comes off two brilliant Eurocup seasons and will look to elevate his all-around game to the Euroleague. Simply put, Smith does it all. Guy Pnini stepped up his game last season by displaying an aggressive defensive side complimented by fantastic three-point shooting. Team captain Burstein is now Maccabi’s senior member, but still an athletic do-it-all player who can step up when needed.
Maccabi’s six big names in the frontcourt give the team options to play with quick, tall, powerful or athletic lineups. Schortsanitis was simply a revelation last season and should remain a dominant force in the middle, especially with his old Greek national team and Olympiacos running mate, Papaloukas, around to work pick-and-roll magic with him. Both Lior Eliyahu and David Blu were able to feed off of Big Sofo’s presence last season. Eliyahu may be the quickest player his size in Europe and with his crafty moves in the paint, he is a true scoring threat. Blu remains a world-class three-point shooter who must be respected on the perimeter. Still just 21 years old, Milan Macvan is a rising star starting his first full season with Maccabi and could become a difference-maker this season. Richard Hendrix showed himself to be an elite shot-blocker and rebound in the playoffs last season and could deliver even more in his second season. Rookie Shawn James has used his tremendous leaping ability to produce highlight reels in recent seasons with rim-rocking dunks and acrobatic rejections. If he can do more of the same in the Euroleague, James will be among the top defenders at his position.
On paper, this Maccabi team has no weaknesses. It has one of the game’s best coaches in Blatt; an experienced, deep and versatile roster with players who give everything on both ends of the court; and a passionate crowd that helps turn Nokia Arena into a home fortress. Ultimately, those are among the chief reasons that Maccabi will be a serious contender to reach another Final Four this season.
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