Bluthenthal
Bluthenthal practicing with the Israel national team last week. Photo by Nir Keidar
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Basketball / A California Yankee on Israel's court

Just a few hours after landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport last Wednesday, David Bluthenthal reported for practice with the Israel national team for the first time in his career. The veteran shooting guard for Maccabi Tel Aviv smiled at all who greeted him, yet he looked to be tired. His first practice was a partial one. Afterward, he made time for what is by far his favorite hobby: knocking down three-pointers.

Despite his fatigue, Bluthenthal did not complain about his abbreviated summer vacation. The 6'7" (2.01 meters ) Los Angeles native said he was happy to be representing Israel on the national team. He noted how honored he was to have been invited to the squad, even though he had been asked to join on previous occasions and declined.

When posed with the question of why he agreed to play this time, he said it was the most politically correct thing for him to do, with him already "representing" Israel as part of Maccabi's squad and wanting to improve the real national team.

Bluthenthal denied that he was pressured by Maccabi officials into joining the national team. He said he was unable to join the team two years ago due to the birth of his son and last summer he had undergone surgery.

The guard said he plans to play another four-to-five years, and that he is feeling strong physically, yet he did appear to have doubts about his decision to join the squad.

He refused to say whether he felt comfortable playing with them yet, saying time would tell.

The Maccabi sharpshooter, who is joining the national team as it prepares to embark on its mission to qualify for the EuroBasket 2011 tournament, is fearful of placing too much strain on his 30-year-old body. He hopes to be in good shape when he takes the floor for Maccabi Tel Aviv this fall.

He also said he is not completely confident of what his role on the team would be. In his brief conversations with head coach Arik Shivek, the only detail discussed was when Bluthenthal could be expected to arrive at the team's training camp.

After he was initially briefed by the coaching staff, Bluthenthal said his main focus would be defense and rebounding.

If need be, he will also be called upon to provide some offense. He added that the presence of stars Omri Casspi and Lior Eliyahu will only serve to inflate expectations for the team.

As for his professional team, Bluthenthal has been monitoring the situation, which has changed dramatically this offseason. Pini Gershon was replaced as head coach by David Blatt, with whom Bluthenthal has a relationship dating from Blatt's history with the club.

Bluthenthal said that though he liked Gershon, he understood management's decision.