Basketball / Fate of Struggling Maccabi Tel Aviv Player in Dispute

Maccabi Tel Aviv seems to think it is finally going to shed Rodney White, the American signee from last summer who never worked out. White, who has yet to play a formal game in Maccabi Tel Aviv yellow, was expected last night to catch a midnight flight for the U.S., "to visit his wife, who is about to give birth," a Maccabi official said.

However, his U.S. agent says the player has every intention to return to Israel and exercise his contract.

Maccabi officials say the club does not plan to bring the player back, sources familiar with the situation say. It was at White's request alone, Maccabi officials insist, that he was not cut sooner. The club wanted to release him earlier, so that he wouldn't have to waste time wearing street clothes on the bench, but the player chose to stay, keep training with the team and renew the team's faith in him. In retrospect, White made the wrong decision, it seems.

However, White's agent in the United States tells a different tale. He told Haaretz yesterday that "White has a contract at Maccabi. Rodney is supposed to return after the birth to Israel. He also is travelling without any luggage."

Lobbying for Sharp

Derrick Sharp, whose barrage of three-pointers saved Maccabi in its most recent game with Ironi Nahariya, has the backing of the team's front office to get more playing time. In internal discussions over the past few weeks among team management, head coach Effi Birenboim was taken to task for giving the captain so few minutes.

Marcus Brown also supports the veteran guard. "Derrick is a rock for Maccabi," Brown said recently. "His attitude toward the game is what makes him special. There are games where he plays and some where he doesn't, but one way or the other, he's very professional, always encouraging other players and being positive."

Brown said he thought the rotation Birenboim has been playing is bound to change because of the different rules in the Israeli league and the Euroleague. "If it confuses the guys," he added, "they just need to get used to it."