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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Israel May be Part of NBA in Several Years

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Maccabi Tel Aviv reportedly is heading back to the United States this fall for its first exhibition games against NBA teams in five years – but greater developments appear to be in the works for the iconic franchise and Israeli basketball.

For one, how about NBA squads making the trans-Atlantic flight to play regular-season games in Israel, and an Israeli club flying the other way to play in North America?

First, the exhibitions, which have yet to be confirmed: Tel Aviv will meet the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 5 and the Brooklyn Nets two nights later, the Israeli team’s co-chief executive officer Eli Drikes told JTA.

The Israelis last made a U.S. jaunt in 2009 to face the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. They were North America regulars in the mid- to late 2000s, playing a total of nine games over four preseasons in five years. It  was seen as the high-water mark in North America for the Israeli Basketball Super League’s dynastic club.

But that could change if you ask Tal Brody, a former star player for Tel Aviv.

He accompanied team executives in meetings in New York last week with Nets management and recently retired NBA Commissioner David Stern, and said his former squad could be part of a new NBA European Division that Brody predicted would be established within a decade.

Revolutionary as it seems, the NBA has a record of mining global branding opportunities. It has 14 offices overseas, and with the increased number of foreign-born players populating its rosters – 92 at the start of this season, 26 percent of the NBA’s total – the league’s tie-ins abroad would make even more sense.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters during All-Star weekend in February that he is “committed to studying” international expansion, but the issue and domestic expansion are “not on the top of my list right now.”

With 50 Israeli championships and five Euroleague titles, Tel Aviv (16-7 heading into Thursday’s regular-season finale) is the revered team in Israel. But others in Israel are catching up, due in part to American ownership and coaching.

Maccabi Haifa, owned by Miami resident Jeffrey Rosen, defeated Tel Aviv to secure the Israel title last year. Haifa’s winning coach, Brad Greenberg, a New Yorker with NBA experience as an assistant coach and in management, now works the sidelines for HaPoel Jerusalem, whose American owners include Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire.

Americans are among the minority owners of Maccabi Tel Aviv, and its head coach, David Blatt, is a Bostonian who made aliyah.

The team is expanding its U.S. visibility through a deal reached last week with the MSG Network, which broadcasts Knicks games, to screen Tel Aviv highlights and features on top of agreements in place with Comcast’s Chicago affiliate and the Los Angeles-based Jewish Life Television.

“The Maccabi Tel Aviv brand is a very strong one, so it seems like a great fit,” said Brad Pomerance, senior vice president for news and programming at JLTV, which on Sunday will screen its fourth monthly program on the team.

Such publicity and the renewal of NBA exhibition games will help in attaining another ambitious goal: Tel Aviv’s planned construction of a basketball academy.

In the conversation with JTA, Drikes said the academy would be constructed in the city and house up to 150 promising basketball players, mostly boys. It would open in the fall of 2015 at a cost of $15 million, he said.

Drikes said he hopes his team’s U.S. visit in October will attract Jewish Americans and others “to be financial partners” in the venture while drawing Jewish ballplayers from America to attend the academy.

NBA’s Tony Parker Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Salute

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

National Basketball Association star Tony Parker has apologized for performing an anti-Semitic salute after a three-year-old photo was published in the French media.

The photo shows Parker, who was born in Belgium and is French by nationality, performing the quenelle salute earlier this year standing next to the gesture’s founder, anti-Semitic French comedian Dieudonne Mlaba Mlaba, backstage at a theatre in France.

The quenelle is a quasi-Nazi salute designed to circumvent France’s laws against displaying Nazi symbols.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League had called on Parker, who plays point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, to apologize for performing the salute.

“While this gesture has been part of French culture for many years, it was not until recently that I learned of the very negative concerns associated with it,” Parker said in a statement released late Monday by Parker’s team, the San Antonio Spurs.

“When l was photographed making that gesture three years ago, I thought it was part of a comedy act, and did not know that it could be in any way offensive or harmful. Since I have been made aware of the seriousness of this gesture, I will certainly never repeat the gesture and sincerely apologize for any misunderstanding or harm relating to my actions,” Parker said in the statement.

The ADL praised Parker’s apology. “We call on those who have posed with the quenelle to follow Parker’s lead and stop using it. Responsible public figures should condemn those who use a gesture which was created to express anti-Semitism,” the ADL said in a statement.

Reports of the Parker salute came a day after soccer player Nicolas Anelka, a French national playing for Britain’s West Bromwich Albion soccer team, was roundly condemned for performing the salute during a match on Saturday. Britain’s Football Association has launched an investigation of the Anelka incident.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Football Association and the UEFA, the governing body of European football, European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor called for a fight against anti-Semitism in football, especially in the wake of the Anelka salute.

“At the European Jewish Congress, we regularly receive reports of attacks on Jews, whether verbal or physical, which also include acts of anti-Semitism at matches involving English and European football clubs,” Kantor wrote in letters to Greg Dyke, chairman of The Football Association and Michel Platini, president of UEFA. “Mr. Anelka’s recent action is a reminder that hatred of Jews in the stands can very easily find its way right on to the pitch. Similarly, the legitimization of anti-Semitic acts by players who are supposed to act as role models for youth is a particularly dangerous phenomenon, and one that is not restricted to Anelka alone,” Kantor’s letter read.

Kantor and the EJC offered their cooperation to the football associations to help fight anti-Semitism.

Jewish Center: NBA Stars Must Say No to Birthday Game for Dictator

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The Simon Wiesenthal Center wants National Basketball Association players to just say no to Kim Jung Un.  The SWC is urging NBA players to refuse to travel to North Korea to play at Dennis Rodman’s invitation, at what really will just be a big birthday celebration for the fascist dictator Kim Jung Un. The event will be held on January 8 in Pyongyang. It is being called (no joke) “The Bang in Pyongyang.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and long-time activist for human rights in North Korea, issued a statement calling on ex-NBAers to do the right thing.

Paddy Power, the Irish online betting company which had originally agreed to sponsor the NBA Birthday Bash for the North Korean dictator announced that it had pulled out. Paddy Power decided not to support the event, due to “changed circumstances.”  What changed circumstances?  North Korea has been a brutal dictatorship run by megalomaniacal tyrants for quite a long time.

The North Korean government’s latest horror: arresting and executing Kim Jung Un’s uncle, and then bragging about the dirty deed proved to be too much even for Paddy Power.

As word came that the Irish company withdrew its sponsorship of Rodman’s Bang in Pyongyang, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading human rights NGO, urged all former NBA stars to stay away from North Korea.

“Everyone, it seems – except Dennis Rodman – understands that this is not a game  to promote peace, but an undeserved birthday gift to a murderous tyrant who heads a regime with the worst human rights record on the planet,” charged Rabbi Cooper.

“Playing a basketball game in Pyongyang before a handful of cronies of the youthful dictator gives Kim Jong Un an undeserved birthday present that enables Kim to change the narrative for the international media.  It shifts the focus of attention away from his execution of his uncle, on North Korea’s brutal gulag, and his nuclear missile threats against his neighbors.”

“There may yet be a time and place for basketball diplomacy in North Korea, but now is neither the time and Kim’s birthday party isn’t the place for such a gesture. We hope ex-NBAers will do the right thing”‘ Cooper concluded.

At 91 Harvey Pollack Is Still NBA’s Leading Scorer

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Fittingly, Harvey Pollack was the one who scribbled the number 100 on the most famous photograph in basketball history: Wilt Chamberlain holding the piece of paper signifying his astounding point total in a 1962 game for the then Philadelphia Warriors.

After all, Pollack is basketball’s ultimate numbers and public relations man.

But the scrawling is hardly Pollack’s sole legacy in a nearly seven-decade career in basketball. He was the first to track a player’s blocked shots, rebounds, minutes played and dunks. The term “triple-double” for a player netting 10 or more points, rebounds and assists in a game — Pollack’s doing. These days he even charts which NBA players sport tattoos.

Pollack is the Philadelphia 76ers’ director of statistical information, a paltry title for the unofficial historian of all things throughout the National Basketball Association’s existence.

“The word ‘legend’ doesn’t appropriately describe Harvey,” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver tells JTA. “He’s really the heart and soul of the 76ers, a walking encyclopedia of NBA history and a testament to the family nature of this league.”

Pollack, vigorous at 91, remains a Philadelphia courtside fixture, scrupulously keeping each game’s statistics without so much as eyeglasses to assist. Pollack, in fact, predates the NBA, going back to the Warriors’ Basketball Association of America debut in 1946.

Not even Philadelphia’s basketball-orphan status during the 1962-63 season — the Warriors moved to San Francisco and the 76ers had not arrived from Syracuse — could interrupt Pollack’s 68-year tenure in pro basketball: That season he handled public relations for NBA doubleheaders.

He’s on a T-shirt streak, too, never wearing the same one twice and nearly all donated to the cause. When a reporter visited this month, Pollack was on T-shirt day number 3,817. With pride he says the Guinness Book of World Records people told him he’ll own the record — actually no one sought it pre-Pollack — as soon as the streak actually ceases.

Like his work streak, that’s hardly imminent.

The native Philadelphian has outlived his wife of 58 years, his four siblings, three basketball arenas, the many newspapers for which he wrote and even Chamberlain. He’s at his 76ers office daily and works every home game, a must greet for referees and opposing coaches, players and trainers. Non-game nights he attends movie screenings and theater performances and visits restaurants for a society column he has penned for decades.

Lara Price, a 76ers executive, says Pollack goes to nearly every concert — most of them rock and roll — at the Wells Fargo Center, the team’s home. When seats aren’t available, he unhesitatingly nudges the arena’s owner, Ed Snider, for tickets.

Pollack is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and several others, but the ultimate tribute may have been the 76ers presenting fans with a Harvey bobblehead a few years back.

He’s loved sports since growing up with his immigrant parents, Louis and Rebecca, both dressmakers, on Dauphin Street, in the northeast section of Philly, not far from where he now makes his home. The family lived a few blocks from Shibe Park, home of the Philadelphia Athletics, and Pollack and his friends would sneak into the baseball games there with youth groups admitted for free.

But basketball has been Pollack’s preferred sport since his senior year at Temple University, when he served as the hoop squad’s manager and started logging statistics the coach hadn’t thought to keep.

“They call me the last of the Mohicans because I’m the only one left in the league since [the NBA] started,” he says. “There’s no clone of me hanging around, so I’m one of a kind.”

Stoudemire Seeking Israeli Citizenship

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Israel may be about to import another self-anointeded Jew, this time New York Knicks start Amar’e Stoudemire, who claims he has Jewish roots.

His agent Happy Walters told New York magazine that the Knicks’ power forward is ”getting citizenship.” He added, ”He applied, and he’s there now,” meaning he is touring Israel.

Stoudemire went to Israel for the Maccabiah Games as the assistant coach of the Canadian basketball squad. The games ended earlier this week.

At his wedding last year to Alexis Welch, Stoudemire donned a kippa and prayer shawl for the “Hebraic” ceremony. In July, he announced he had become a part owner in the Israeli basketball club HaPoel Jerusalem.

He told the JTA in an exclusive interview last month that, he is in regular dialogue with New York rabbis, studies Torah and observes the High Holidays.

“I’m not a religious person, I’m more of a spiritual person, so I follow the rules of the Bible that coordinate with and connect with the Hebrew culture,” Stoudemire told JTA.

In other words, he picks and chooses from the Torah whatever suits him.

The JTA contributed to this article.

Casspi to Sign with Houston Rockets for $2 Million

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli-born player to join the NBA, has agreed to a two-year, $2 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

Casspi, 25, who played the last two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, told the Cleveland Jewish News that he hopes to sign the contract on Wednesday or Thursday.

The 6-9 forward became an unrestricted agent earlier this month when the Cavs opted not to extend his $3.3 million contract.

Casspi had seen his playing time diminish in Cleveland, where he averaged 4 points and 2.7 rebounds this season, playing nearly 12 minutes a game. He had played two seasons with the Sacramento Kings, coming into the league with great fanfare in the Jewish community, before being traded to the Cavs.

The Rockets have been interested in signing Casspi for a long time, according to Yahoo!Sports. Houston recently signed star center Dwight Howard, the most coveted free agent on the market.

Last week a second Israeli, Gal Mekel, joined the NBA, agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Mekel last month helped lead Maccabi Haifa to the Israeli championship in an upset of Maccabi Tel Aviv.

ESPN: Israel’s Mekel to Sign with NBA’s Mavericks

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Israeli point guard Gal Mekel is poised to become the second Israeli to play in the NBA after giving a verbal commitment to the Dallas Mavericks.

Mekel, 25, informed the Mavs early Monday morning that he would sign a three-year contract with the 2011 champions at the end of the annual trade and signing moratorium on July 10, ESPN reported.

He  has agreed to sign a minimum salary contract, which according to ESPN’s Marc Stein helps his chances of being signed since the Mavs are looking to save money as they pursue star center Dwight Howard in free agency.

Mekel led Maccabi Haifa to its first Israeli championship and was the Super League MVP. Shortly after winning the title, he arrived in the United States, where he was also courted by five other NBA teams – Milwaukee, Toronto, Atlanta, Indiana and Memphis.

Mekel played in college for Wichita State from 2006 to 2008.

In other NBA news, Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the league, became an unrestricted free agent on Sunday after the Cleveland Cavaliers opted not to extend his $3.3 million contract. He has played in Cleveland for the past two seasons.

Israel’s NBA Player Omri Casspi Undergoes Appendectomy

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, had an appendectomy.

The Cleveland Cavaliers forward had his appendix removed on Saturday night at the Orlando Regional Medical Center and stayed overnight at the hospital, CBS Sports reported Sunday, citing a team news release.

Casspi was to be re-evaluated on Sunday.

He had been taken to the hospital on Saturday and diagnosed with acute appendicitis, the statement said, adding that his status would be updated as appropriate.

The 6-foot-9 Casspi, a native of Yavne in central Israel, was averaging 4 points and 2.2 rebounds in limited minutes this season.

Media reports said that Casspi’s agents had requested a trade from the Cavs, but in a recent interview with JTA, Casspi said he had never made such a request.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israels-nba-player-omri-casspi-undergoes-appendectomy/2013/02/25/

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