Maccabi Tel Aviv's new season began the moment the NBA announced the end of its lockout. It will be a different team when Jordan Farmar returns to the New Jersey Nets.
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Maccabi took a calculated risk by signing a "lead guard" on borrowed time, and this gambit turned out better than anyone could have imagined. Farmar, who turns 25 tomorrow, more than filled the role that Jeremy Pargo had so capably played for Maccabi last season. After a relatively short adjustment period, Farmar "jump-started" the yellow and blues' Euroleague season.
Coach David Blatt signed Theodoros Papaloukas this summer with his mind on The Day After, but it isn't realistic to expect the Greek import to provide high level point guard play and leadership, by himself, over the strain of a three-league season. The tricky part of the year comes now as they try to replace Farmar.
The NBA is hoping to begin its season in four weeks with a televised Christmas Day extravaganza. They estimate it might take two weeks for the owners and players to vote on the new agreement and sign all the necessary paperwork. This would leave a week for signing free agents and another week for training camp.
The signing period for NBA free agents, which normally begins on July 1, was wiped out this season because of the lockout. July is usually devoted to summer leagues which foreign teams flock to, in the search for potential prospects for the upcoming season. Training camps open in September and the NBA has its exhibition games in October. In the fall, foreign teams sometimes sign players who don't make the final roster cuts, to fill last minute needs or in emergency situations.
This is the situation that Maccabi finds itself in now, except that the four-month selection process of signing and sifting through prospective players will be condensed into two weeks.
In addition, most of the players from this large pool will be rusty after five months away from competitive play.
One of coach Blatt's greatest strengths is his ability to identify players (sometimes in unlikely places ) who fit well into his system. He didn't sign Farmar solely because he was an NBA player who was Jewish and interested in playing in Israel. Farmar was also a team-oriented, energetic, attacking guard on both offense and defense, who was well-suited for Blatt's style of play.
Obviously, the best case scenario would be the unlikely event of Pargo somehow making his way back to Maccabi. Otherwise, it should be interesting to see if Blatt, can pull off another surprise.