Despite significant gaps regarding financial demands, Maccabi Tel Aviv officials said yesterday they are convinced they will be able to sign David Blatt soon to a two-year contract. The officials say they believe the deal will pull through because both sides want it to happen.

David Federman, owner of this year's Super League runner-up, is known for usually avoiding direct contact with the press, but yesterday he made an exception when he spoke with reporters after club officials met with Blatt. "We'll be thrilled to see Blatt at Maccabi," he said.

Blatt, who is currently the head coach of Aris Thessaloniki, also sounded upbeat. "Maccabi is a special club and needs a change," he said yesterday. "I think I can bring that change."

Later, Federman told Haaretz: "I hope [the deal] will be closed. Things can be closed or not. We'll know better in a couple of days. We had a meeting with Blatt. We understood his way of thinking."

According to officials familiar with the negotiations, Blatt will have to pass up on a hefty sum in order to finalize his return to the team he served as an assistant coach under Pini Gershon - who was just ousted from the job - a decade ago. They say he would have to settle for $400,000 net rather than $600,000 net, so that Maccabi would be able to pay the tax fines related to Blatt's coaching salary while abroad the past three years. Maccabi will also have to compensate Aris Thessaloniki, which holds an option for another season, by exercising Blatt's buyout clause with the Greek team.

If the negotiations don't fall apart, Blatt will want Dan Shamir as his assistant coach, the officials said, and Maccabi in that case would have to compensate Bnei Hasharon, where Shamir is the current coach, and cover his salary.

Although nothing is for certain, say the officials, the two sides already discussed mapping out next year, including Shamir and bringing back two of the following three Israelis: Yotam Halperin, Tal Burstein and Lior Eliyahu. Blatt apparently admires all three, though Eliyahu's agent said the chances the forward would leave Vittoria are slim. Eliyahu has played just one season for the Spanish club and has another two left on his contract.

The two sides also discussed Blatt's participation in the basketball world championships as the Russian national team coach. Maccabi officials would like to see Blatt's time with Russia not interfering with rebuilding efforts at Yad Eliahu next season. The championship will take place August 28-September 12 in Turkey, so Blatt could miss two weeks.

Maccabi yesterday announced that it would not exercise its option on power forward Stephane Lasme, who is the second player after Andrew Wisniewski who officially will not return next season. Officials say the team decided yesterday that it would not extend Alan Anderson's contract and are waiting for it to expire on June 16 before making an official decision.