After a long pause because of the Coronavirus, Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv head back to Menorah Mivtachim Arena as they'll host Maccabi Ashdod on Sunday evening (19:00, live on 5Live - channel 58) as part of the 22nd Israeli WINNER League fixture, which will close out the second round of games.
Teams around the league decided to make a variety of changes to their rosters; however, the Yellow & Blue retained the squad, which represented the club before the pandemic. Sandy Cohen and Angelo Caloiaro were registered to the league, as Omri Casspi and John DiBartolomeo (injuries) will miss the final portion of the season. The organization added Frederic Bourdillon till the end of the season while parting ways with Nate Wolters, Tarik Black, Jalen Reynolds, and Aaron Jackson.
Unlike other clubs, Maccabi didn't play any external exhibition games. On Monday, the Yellow & Blue squad split into two teams as they played a game that lasted three-thirds with referees officiating the game. That allowed each player to receive a significant amount of high-intensity minutes. A 36-meter-wide, three meters tall LED screen wall, was implemented in the arena to improve the atmosphere and add value to our business partners.
"It won't be the same because we won't have our fans on our side, we know they'll be watching us on their T.V.s, and I want to send a message to them. We will do our best to bring Maccabi back to their glory days".
"For us, it is very important to perform as we did before the Coronavirus", Added coach Sfairopoulos. "We will need a little time because we've had only three weeks of team practices, but I think that we are in a good way to go up, as long as we continue to play and practice, we'll become better and better".
"First of all, I'm very happy to meet one of my ex-players Amit Tamir that is now the coach of Ashdod, I wish him good luck", Told Sfairopoulos about the opponent. "I'm in a great relationship with him, we have many memories when I coached him in P.A.O.K. Thesaloniki. As I said, they have a new coach, new competitive players who are competent shooters. We need to be ready to concentrate, it's our first game after such an extended period, so it's crucial to stick to our game plan and what we've worked on in the last couple of practices".
"It feels good to be back, I'm ready to get back on the court", Said Scottie Wilbekin before the return. "I'm sad that the game won't be with fans, but I'm happy to get to play basketball again".
"Both teams or every team rather will probably be a little rusty, just little things, little details here and there. But I expect everybody's going to be playing hard because they've got a lot of built up energy from the 99 days of not playing. It's going to be an aggressive game".
Maccabi is topping the league table with a 19:2 record. On the other end, Maccabi Ashdod won only four games out of 21 league fixtures until the forced break transpired, which settled the team in last place. Brad Greenberg didn't return to the head coach position as former Israel National Team player, Amit Tamir will fill in for the remainder of the season.
Ashdod has five players who became inactive, as Oded Brandwein and Lior Eliyahu are injured. On the opposing roster, you can find Paul Stoll, J.R. Holder, Zac Cuthbertson, Al'Lonzo Coleman, Stu Douglass, Alex Chubrevich, Tzuf Ben Moshe, Amit Ebo, and Dolev Drapic closing out the roster. The south squad played two friendly matches against Hapoel Holon and Maccabi Haifa, as Holder (21 points), Coleman (17), and Stoll (11 and 9 assists) lead the team in their latest preparation.
The head to head record between the clubs stands at 20:5 in favor of Tel Aviv, while in Menora Mivtachim Arena, the hosts hold a 9:2 record. The last meeting between the two teams was in November in Ashdod, as Maccabi beat the hosts, 94:57. Quincy Acy led the way with 22 points while Jake Cohen added 14.