web analytics
October 23, 2014 / 29 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

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.

Time Out

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

South Florida has received quite a boost from the newly crowned National Basketball Association champion Miami Heat. It’s difficult to describe the frenzy of Heat fans in their quest for victory. It is truly compelling that in this time of economic downturn, the Heat sold out every home game. Apparently, the thrill of experiencing this type of event is quite powerful.

Sports is the quintessential bonding experience for diverse members of a community. CEOs and janitors, professors and school dropouts, men and women, youngsters and grandparents all get caught up in the euphoria.

Hotels were filled with tourists. Many visitors came from out of town. Some were fans of the opposing team. Some took advantage of the party-like atmosphere to take vacations. There were sportscasters and “wannabes,” family, friends and entourages of the players, and individuals who just wanted to be part of the exciting mix.

One visitor, however, was so unlikely that his presence was almost surreal. Former prisoner of Hamas Gilad Shalit was in town to launch his new career as a sportswriter. He watched the NBA finals and visited the Miami Dolphins training camp and the University of Miami football team.

Shalit was a 19-year-old Israeli soldier when he was kidnapped in a raid by Hamas terrorists in 2006. He was held hostage for over five years. His photo showed a bespectacled sweet-faced kid. He could have been anyone’s brother, son, neighbor or grandchild. In all that time his whereabouts where unknown. His captors denied him visits from the International Red Cross. Jews everywhere were haunted by his wrenching story.

Prime Minister Netanyahu ultimately did the unthinkable to save this one Israeli soldier. On October 17, 2011, Shalit was released in exchange for more than 1,000 Arab prisoners.

Gilad has kept out the spotlight since his return. He came to Florida with his newfound mentor, Arik Henig, a popular Israeli media figure who writes for newspapers and television. Henig, a seasoned reporter, was showing the ropes to his young protegé.

The question, of course, is how was it possible? Shalit is painfully shy and soft-spoken. How did this young man survive his ordeal? He was a kid alone. How did he muster the strength?

Shalit is a very private person. He does not like to be interviewed. He usually shuns discussion about his time in captivity. However, he shared some insights while in Miami. His revelations were poignant.

He told of his saving grace: he was given a radio by his jailers and was allowed to listen to sport broadcasts. Sometimes he even watched a televised soccer game with his guards. He had a distraction; a way to avoid dealing with his terrible predicament. He had a way to survive.

There are many who have great disdain for sports. They dismiss it as nahrishkeit (nonsense). They look down on those who play and those who watch.

The Rambam advised pleasurable distraction as a way of refreshing oneself and going on in one’s life. He suggested walks in a beautiful garden. Obviously he never heard of the NBA.

Life is often difficult. It is always terminal. One does not have to be a prisoner of terrorists to become overwhelmed by it all. Torah study, prayer, work and obligations are important. Sometimes there is a great need for a time out to refresh and revive.

What We Can Learn From The Old New York Knicks

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The delayed start of the professional basketball season due to a labor dispute has left me indifferent. It has been many years since I watched an entire game, even more since I actually attended one in person. There are simply better and more enjoyable ways to utilize my time, not to mention that, realistically, “professional” basketball has unfortunately not been played in the metropolitan area for some time.

To someone who was an avid Knicks fan in his youth, reared on the glories of the Knick championship teams now almost four decades gone, much of professional basketball has become unwatchable – a parade of dunking, jumping and individual efforts more suitable to TV highlights than to success in a team sport.

That is why I read with great delight Harvey Araton’s recently-released When the Garden was Eden, a chronicle of those glorious Knicks teams of Reed and Frazier, Bradley and DeBusschere, Barnett and Monroe, Phil Jackson and Red Holzman. It is an account not only of their victories and struggles, but especially of their disparate backgrounds and personalities that meshed to form what might be the greatest team in NBA history, even if it was never composed of the greatest players in NBA history or even of that era. There is heart, self-sacrifice, unselfishness and determination, a microcosm (as Araton notes in a running subtext) of what America could have been like with racial harmony and mutual respect.

The team revolved around Willis Reed, and the narrative of Game 5 (1970 Finals – Reed injured, team trailing, but somehow miraculously defeat the Laker behemoths of Chamberlain, Baylor and West) makes as riveting and inspiring reading today as it was listening to that game. And Game 7 – Reed emerging through the runway and limping onto the court shortly before the game began, having taken shots of painkillers to ease the throbbing in his torn hip muscle – is the stuff of legends and clichés. DeBusschere turned, saw the Lakers mesmerized – frozen – by the sight of the injured Captain, and said to himself, “We got ‘em.” They did, in a rout.

I missed that game – May 8, 1970, a Friday night. Having seen the game in subsequent years on film, it remains enthralling entertainment and a slice of life. Walt Frazier, who had one of the greatest Game 7’s ever – 36 points, 19 assists – resented that Reed received the MVP award after having played barely five games in the series. But watching the game again with Araton – for his first time ever, Frazier said – he retracted and apologized for his earlier sentiments. It was Reed’s presence alone that intimidated the Lakers, and he deserved the MVP status.

The backgrounds of the major players were as diverse as America. Reed from the deep South, Frazier from urban Atlanta, DeBusschere from working class Detroit, and Bradley from upper middle class Republican bankers in Missouri – but all bonding through an understanding and appreciation of their diversity.

There was some underlying racial tension on the team – specifically the resentments of the talented Cazzie Russell who was the sixth man behind the slow-footed, cerebral Bill Bradley (my personal favorite player). Russell chafed in his role – even called Reed an “Uncle Tom” once for rebuking him, to which Reed essentially glared him into an apology and greater deference – but most basketball pundits saw Bradley’s genius, outside the numbers of the box score, in running the floor, passing, setting up teammates, disrupting the opposition, and creating offensive harmony.

It was a joy to behold – the team game, the movement without the ball, the shot going to the open man, the helping out on defense. It will surprise no one who watched those teams that Bradley was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, despite a career average of 12 points a game, with his season high topping out at 16 points a game. Indeed, seven other players from those teams are also Hall of Famers, and yet they succeeded in keeping their egos in check. Even the magical performer Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, a 1971 addition, learned to sublimate his skills for the good of the team –for example, insisting when he arrived on the team that he not take Dick Barnett’s starting position.

It was a different era. Most players did not earn great amounts of money from professional sports, held off-season jobs and actually needed the playoff money. Only Bradley had signed the big contract after college, his career delayed by studies in Oxford and then service in the Air Force – another relic of a bygone era. Willis Reed lived in Rego Park, a far cry from Derek Jeter’s penthouse in Trump Tower, and not far from where my own great aunt lived. It was a middle class existence, to which the average fan could easily relate.

Milt And Wilt – Mitzvah Men

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Up in the Catskills, a man named Yossi Zablocki is trying to save the last blintz palace of my generation’s youth. The place is called Kutsher’s Country Club.

Once, in another world, I spent a lot of time there covering basketball players and boxers in training for their big fights and sports clinics that drew 500 high school and college coaches from all over the country for a week each summer to study under coaching giants like Red Auerbach, Nat Holman, Ara Parseghian and Adolph Rupp.

The man who made it all work was Milton Kutsher.

It was also a time when that slice of the world, comprised of a great wall of kosher hotels affectionately known as the Borscht Belt, had its own lifestyle, bringing with it a ritual of family summers that didn’t need jet air travel or Caribbean beaches or the green felt tables of Las Vegas.

This was the world of stomach-bending meals, group activities, games of “Simon Says,” and stages that served as training grounds for future giants of comedy.

And the soft, summer evenings were punctuated from one end of the “Jewish Alps” to the other with the steady thump, thump, thump of basketballs dribbled against asphalt and the perfect punctuation mark of the swish as the ball arched through the net.

Everybody had a team of pseudo-busboys and bellmen straight off college campuses. Who could ever forget the sight of the world’s tallest bellhop out of Philadelphia – a man named Wilt Chamberlain – and a surrounding cast of players featuring talent like Frank Ramsey, Cliff Hagen and Neil Johnson?

But all of that pales against the memory of what Kutsher put together with the Maurice Stokes Basketball Game.

The story begins in 1958 on an airplane bringing the Cincinnati Royals home from Detroit, where they had been seven-point losers to the Pistons in the first of a best-of-three, opening-round NBA playoff series.

The plane was more than halfway to Cincinnati when Maurice Stokes, a man with a spectacularly impressive body and who, at 6-feet-7, had been the NBA’s third best rebounder, suddenly collapsed.

That he did not die right there was the direct result of a determined flight attendant who raced for an oxygen tank. That he did not die en route to the hospital in Cincinnati was the direct result of an alert pilot’s radio message and a dedicated EMS team.

That he continued to live for 12 years, during which time he taught himself to speak again and became wheelchair ambulatory, was the result of his own refusal to die.

And that he could defy every medical prognosis surrounding his affliction with encephalitis during that period was the direct result of the remarkable self-sacrifice of teammate Jack Twyman, the determination of the best players in the NBA, who set an unequalled standard for caring, and the total commitment of a Catskill hotel owner: Milton Kutsher.

It was Twyman, a Cincinnati resident, who camped out in the hospital, had himself declared Stokes’s official guardian and managed the money while he struggled to find more. And it was Kutsher who set in motion the vehicle that cut into the debts, paid the bills and kept on paying them.

Kutsher gave new meaning to the phrase “Do the right thing” by creating the Maurice Stokes Basketball Game, which drew NBA All-Stars and became a lifesaver for the needy in the basketball community.

Back then salaries were more modest, there was no NBA pension plan and a lot of family members of basketball players needed help.

It began when Twyman, desperate for funds to keep Stokes alive, happened to hold a chance conversation with Kutsher.

“We got a hotel and we got an outdoor basketball court,” he told Twyman. “You tell the players to get here and we’ll house them, we’ll feed them and we’ll sell the tickets.”

Nobody who ever played in the game asked for a plane ticket to get there. Started on an outdoor court, the game ultimately moved into a gym that held 4,000 and sold out every time.

In a world of far too many ersatz heroes, I-got-mine role models and what’s-in-it-for-me superstars, the game was a success thanks to Kutsher and a handful of NBA players with a social conscience.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/milt-and-wilt-mitzvah-men/2010/07/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: