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Monday, November 07, 2011

Four NBA players playing in Israel, a fifth on the way

With the NBA lockout keeping the league from playing, there are four NBA players playing in Israel under short-term contracts, and a fifth who hopes to be playing as soon as he recovers from injury. One of those playing is Avery Bradley of my Boston Celtics, who is playing for HaPoel Jerusalem.
Jordan Farmar (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Avery Bradley (Hapoel Jerusalem), J.J. Hickson (Bnei Hasharon Herzliya) and Craig Brackins (Maccabi Ashdod) are the four locked-out players currently appearing in the local league, while Trevor Booker, also of Ashdod, is waiting to recover from a pre-season injury.

All of these players have chosen to keep playing rather than sit out the lock-out like their colleagues, and each has his own reason. For example, Farmar, who is Jewish, has strong ties to Israel because he was raised by an Israeli stepfather. Bradley, who played only one college season at Texas before turning pro, and then lost most of his rookie season with the Boston Celtics due to injury, is playing to get added experience.

While none of these players are of superstar “instant impact” caliber, all are expected to make a significant contribution to their new teams. Though none of the players or coaches interviewed by Haaretz claimed to be overly concerned by the lock-out, the specter of the labor dispute, and just when it will end, still hovers in the background.

Hickson had 20 points in his debut with Bnei Hasharon on Sunday, but his team was still blown out by host Hapoel Holon. Farmar, whose adjustment has been slowed by injuries, fouled out with just six points against Barak Netanya last night (see story). Bradley and Brackins are all still getting acclimated. According to Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, “Any player who hasn’t played in Europe, even an NBA player, has to be expected to go through an adjustment period to European basketball, and the pace of adjusting is usually connected to the player’s attitude.”

The difference between style of play and rules has often been cited.

International basketball allows a lot more contact than the NBA, and the style of play is basically team oriented rather than based on stars and individual talent. Foreign players cite the Israeli league as very, very up-tempo, which makes it a fun place to play, and the rabid fans and small intimate arenas are reminiscent for them of high-school basketball in America.
Twenty years ago, a client took me to a game between HaPoel Galil Elyon (then a power) and an Austrian team (in Vienna). I couldn't adjust to it. It was much slower than the NBA - the players seemed to plod up and down the floor. Thanks to the internet, I continue to keep up with American sports, including the NBA. Go Celtics!

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