Behind the Facade of Israeli Basketball's American Gentlemen

Brad Greenberg ended the regular season with a petty settling of accounts; David Blatt refused to answer questions.

Aviv Lavie
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Aviv Lavie

The last day of the regular season just goes to show how utterly unpredictable the playoffs are. It's apparently possible that the common denominator among all the teams that reach the finals is a complete lack of stability. Eilat played well but lost the game in the last two minutes; Haifa played terribly but won in the same two minutes. Netanya bloomed in the upper group but wilted on Sunday; Maccabi Tel Aviv seemed lackluster but eventually came to life. Only Hapoel Jerusalem can be blindly trusted to follow an excellent win with a silly defeat, demonstrating the reliability of a broken Swiss watch.

Haifa and Eilat battled it out for the home advantage in the semi-final series, assuming they both actually make it, and the stats show why: Both teams finished the season with an 11-3 total at home and 6-7 total on the road. In all three direct clashes between them, the home team won. (Given the balance between the teams in the league, it's almost too bad the final is only one game and not a series. A five-game series between Eilat or Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv would definitely be an enjoyable spectacle.)

It was both disappointing and frustrating to watch the interviews with the coaches after the final games of the regular season. Indeed, Brad Greenberg and David Blatt both peeled back their façades as American gentlemen.

Greenberg began with a petty settling of accounts with "all those who said I wouldn't be here after December." It seems to me that, in fact, Greenberg was greeted with respect from the moment he set foot in Israel, but then again I probably follow the local press less closely. His self-satisfaction and the praises he lavished on his players seemed completely disconnected from the reality of the terrible basketball his team played in the last game – and indeed, throughout the last few weeks of the season.

Blatt too, one of the most respected and admired coaches ever to stand at Maccabi Tel Aviv's helm, seems to have a grudge against the press. He refused to answer a completely legitimate question regarding Moran Roth – pretending that post-match interviews are not the stage for coaches to offer professional explanations about their decisions – and chose to end the interview with a stinging put-down of the journalist from the Sport channel. But of course, being so close to Shimon Mizrahi for three years probably does alter a man's personality.

On the bottom side of the table, we received a painful demonstration of Israeli basketball's lack of continuity. Holon and Ashdod recorded meaningless wins on their way to a long vacation. The former was the league champion not too long ago, and the latter reached the playoffs final last season. Now, not too much is left of either team.

Maccabi Haifa coach Brad Greenberg.Credit: Sharon Bukov

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