Basketball / Yotam Halperin Not About to Join NBA Any Time Soon

Talks of Seattle contract aimed at pressuring Maccabi TA.

Yotam Halperin has not received a guaranteed contract from the Seattle SuperSonics and is unlikely to be joining the NBA team next season as had been widely reported Monday.

Halperin met late Monday night with his American agent Jason Levien to review Seattle's offer. The 23-year-old guard, picked at No. 53 by Seattle in the recent NBA Draft found out that he was not being offered a guaranteed contract, but an offer to join its final pre-season training camp on a standard tender contract that does not guarantee him a place on the roster and does not cover the cost of his buy-out from Maccabi Tel Aviv where he is currently under contract.

The story is, however, not as straightforward as it first seems. Halperin is under contract to Maccabi Tel Aviv for the coming season, but that contract is only worth some $120,000. The player is demanding that Maccabi at least triple the sum. However while Maccabi is willing to upgrade his contract, it wants him to sign a long-term deal, including compensation for the club should he leave for the NBA.

Halperin who wants to join Seattle next season is not interested in a long-term commitment and is trying to improve his terms at Maccabi via pressure on the club's management. This is where Halperin's agent came in with a "contract offer from Seattle." But it seems that the only ones to buy the story were the media. "I am in striking distance of an NBA contract," Halperin announced Monday, earning him front-page spreads in the sports sections of Israel's two mass circulation dailys.

But has Halperin come any closer to becoming the first Israeli to break the NBA barrier? The answer is obviously no. The contract Seattle has offered Halperin is standard practice for players picked in the second round of the Draft.

"It is exactly the same contract offered to Lior Eliyahu by the Houston Rockets," Eliyahu's agent Steven Heumann said yesterday. "But we turned it down because next season Eliyahu will receive a long-term guaranteed contract."

"Seattle wants Halperin, but it has no need for him in the coming season," a source close to the team said yesterday. "Even if he does decide to join Seattle's pre-season camp and it does keep him on, the team will put him in the D-League and he won't play a minute in NBA."

Sources close to Halperin confirmed that Seattle's offer was not attractive and said he would eventually have to sit down and talk with Maccabi.

"At the end of the day Halperin and Maccabi will have to sit down and talk shop because he can't continue playing a poker-face game. He will have to put his cards on the table; you can't bluff and scoop the pot."