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Ronnie: What do you see Maccabi doing this summer to revamp the roster? Will they go hard after Mekel? Also is Bender going to play on the senior team this year? David Pick: Maccabi are going hard after Gal Mekel – as are Hapoel Jerusalem. Not many players are safe in terms of moving forward with Maccabi next season. MarQuez Haynes, Nate Linhart, Sofo Schotsanitis are all gone. Joe Alexander is questionable, depending on whether he is awarded Israeli credentials. Alex Tyus is looking for his max deal in Europe, which is a well-deserved $1 million. Jeremy Pargo is 50-50, could go either way, will come down to if Maccabi win or lose championship. Assistant Pini Gershon is out.
“Obviously the No. 8 pick is expected to have an illustrious and longer NBA career than I’ve had, so that’s fine, but I think that Milwaukee should certainly share that [bust] label. They contributed heavily to it. Heavily. For the Bucks to pull the plug on me, I thought, was dramatically irresponsible on their part. What it did was label me as some sort of a problem player. It made everyone in the league look at me different when 12 months before any team would’ve died to have me.”
“I don’t think there is a hard definition of what a ‘draft bust’ is,” Alexander told Basketball Insiders. “Ultimately not being in the NBA is on me, but as far as ‘who is a bust?’ you have to look at Milwaukee and the management that drafted me. If you want to label anyone with the term ‘bust’ — it’s the Bucks. When Milwaukee drafted me, I was touted as a ‘project’ and someone with a lot of potential who could contribute had I learned to play the game. That’s what the Bucks told me. I needed time. I didn’t start playing basketball until I was 16 years old, but I was the most athletic guy in the entire draft. The Bucks knew that. Everyone understood this. I could’ve been drafted by any other team in the league and they would’ve given me time to develop.”
And that was always the worry here. Executives from rival teams have raved unreservedly about the 55-year-old Boston-area native’s X-and-O acumen, but the fact remains that he showed up in Cleveland as a virtual unknown to every player of consequence on that roster. Doesn’t matter, as one veteran GM told me in May, that Blatt just took a Maccabi Tel Aviv squad that “was outmanned at every position except coach” to a Euroleague championship that ranks as the second most prestigious club trophy in the sport behind the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The question with Blatt from the start was: Would NBA vets who don’t care one whit about his international accomplishments buy into the new program? Answer: Based on the available evidence, LeBron has not.
Mekel also attacked the reports that claimed he was asking for $2.5 million for two-and-a-half years from Maccabi, insisting that they were aimed to display him in a negative manner. Mekel’s best option to return to the NBA will likely be through a 10-day contract, which teams will be able to offer to players from next Monday. Mekel would have three games to impress in the hope of being signed to another 10-day contract and ultimately until the end of the season. It is hardly an ideal situation, but considering Mekel’s current position, it is the best he can hope for.
A Palestinian-American student alleged that she was assaulted by a group of Jewish fans at a Brooklyn arena during an exhibition basketball game between the host Nets and Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv. Nerdeen Kiswani, 20, said that she was punched in the stomach and had a Palestinian flag taken from her hands during the October 7 game at the Barclays Center by a group that included Leonard Petlakh, the executive director of the Kings Bay YM-YWHA, who was punched outside the arena after the game. Kiswani, who wears a hijab, is a student at Hunter College in Manhattan, where Petlakh also teaches.
Several dozen anti-Israel protesters, many of them waving Palestine flags, gathered outside Quicken Loans Arena before the Cavaliers hosted Maccabi Tel Aviv. Holding signs that read: ”Hold Israel Accountable” and ”Boycott Israel,” the protesters peacefully chanted behind barricades set up across the street from the downtown arena. Cleveland police, including several on mounted horseback, kept a watchful eye as fans made their way into the building Sunday for Cleveland’s first exhibition game.
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Though Maccabi’s roster is stacked with talent: former Cavs, Grizzlies and Sixers guard Jeremy Pargo (Agency: Priority Sports); defensive specialist guard Marquez Haynes; ex-Olympian Australian center Aleks Maric; skilled wing Sylven Landesberg, and 6-foot-5 veteran forward Devin Smith, who could’ve been a perfect glue-guy in an NBA system like the San Antonio Spurs — Tyus has the most NBA upside. “The NBA is all about opportunity and getting a chance. I never got mine because of the NBA lockout and my pursuit of Israeli passport,” Tyus told Eurobasket.
According to sources the Miami Heat, among other teams, expressed interest in Tyus and were open to audition the 6-foot-9 big man in training camp. One official for the Heat was in Israel last season when Tyus bullied Serbian club Partizan Belgrade with 16 points on 8-for-8 shooting, and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. However, under contract with Maccabi, talks were terminated in a flash.
Now the specter of a pro-Palestinian protest at an Israeli sporting event is coming to the United States. This could happen next month when the most celebrated basketball team in Israel’s history, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, will return to the United States and play two NBA preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. As Euroleague Champions, this will be the fifth time in nine years that Maccabi has played in the United States. But coming on the heels of the summer bombardment of Gaza, there are many activists in New York City arguing that it can no longer be hoops as usual.
Australian forward Joe Ingles has received some interest from the Philadelphia 76ers, sources told Sportando. Ingles is currently playing in the FIBA World Cup with Australian NT. Brett Brown, coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, worked with Ingles during 2012 Olympic Games in London and he’s a big fan of him. Ingles is a free-agent after spent the last season with Maccabi Tel-Aviv.
The Cavs will compete in two regional home contests in Ohio against a pair of Central Division opponents. The Indiana Pacers will arrive in Cincinnati for a matchup with the Cavs at the Cintas Center on Oct. 15. Cleveland will square off with the Chicago Bulls at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Oct. 20. The seven-game slate also includes three games at Quicken Loans Arena where the team will host Head Coach David Blatt’s former club and Israeli-league power Maccabi Tel Aviv on Oct. 5, the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 14 and the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 17. In their preseason finale, the Cavaliers will travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Oct. 22.