After Massacre in Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv Makes Clear It's Built for Mediocrity

Friday's loss to BC Khimki was a bitter reminder that the Mac. TA hoopsters have no go-to guy.

Eyal Gil
Eyal Gil
Eyal Gil
Eyal Gil

As the season progresses the simple fact that Maccabi Tel Aviv just isn't good enough this year becomes clearer, as was ever so clear in Friday night's massacre in Moscow. The 88-67 defeat to BC Khimki reminded everyone that the preliminary stage is over and there are no more weak opponents.

Nor can we delude ourselves that changing one or two foreign players can make the difference. We can't wait for players to overcome injuries or return aftersuspensions. Maccabi Tel Aviv just isn't built to compete this season; it's a mediocre team – one that can reach the Top 16 and no further.

In some games, Maccabi's defense made up for woeful offense. Every so often one player stepped up, but that was it. Owner David Federman was honest enough to admit it, declaring that the team wasn't good enough to reach the Final Four. The man obviously knows what he's talking about. After all, his son Danny was responsible for putting the team together.

Maccabi's failure was expected when you consider that the team has too many players who can help, but no star who can shine when the going gets tough.There were hopes that this would be Lior Eliyahu's season, or that Dwayne Smith would take one last step and become a top player. Both were at their best in Moscow, but that wasn't enough.

Coach David Blatt had to experiment with tactics time and again, lacking a natural leader. Blatt plays around with his team and tries different combinations. When that doesn't work, things fall apart.

Maccabi officials hoped that, lacking superstars, Blatt would do the trick, so they opted for a relatively low budget in bringing in players. This concept has apparently failed miserably. Blatt couldn't find the right combinations, probably because the players he brought in couldn't fulfill expectations.

Keith Langford was brought in during the middle of last season; he forced Blatt to change his thinking and come up with a new scheme. Blatt, it turns out, needs a player to challenge him, a player that Blatt must try to domesticate, someone who knows what to do with the ball when nothing else works. If Maccabi hopes to win in Europe, it needs a creative player like that. At this point, Blatt can only turn to David Logan, at best.

Meanwhile, I was a bit worried after the Moran Roth festival last week. Whenever an Israeli player has one good game in Europe, I remember Yaniv Green's debut for Maccabi. He scored 24 points in the victory over Zalgiris Kaunus in the 2004/05 Euroleague opener, making the media crown him a savior. As the season progressed, Green's minutes shrank until his place on the bench became a source of endless jokes.

I really like Roth. He didn't get enough chances to show his talent this season, especially in the Euroleague. And he really should have had more chances, considering Logan and Ricky Hickman'sweaknesses.

But Roth can't and shouldn't be Maccabi's next Great White Hope, as he was portrayed last week after the victory against Fenerbahce. On Friday, Roth wasn't completely to blame, but he had a huge part in the Yellows' pathetic second quarter when they lost their lead.

Roth can still play a significant role in Maccabi's rotation, and I hope he'll stay on next season. Still, the way the club, the fans and the media overrated him before the Khimki game is further proof of Maccabi's weaknessesthis season.

Khimki’s Kresimir Loncar, right, fighting for the ball with Maccabi’s Darko Planinic in Moscow on Friday. Credit: AFP

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