November 9, 2011 Leave a Comment
On Monday night, Hapoel Jerusalem inched out a close win, 85-79, on the road against Elitzur Netanya, in what will ultimately be Boston Celtic’s guard Avery Bradley’s last game in Israel. Jerusalem earned the win as former Illinois product, Brian Randle (21 points), managed to hold down the paint to help his team withstand the hot shooting of Netanya’s guards, Arkansas State’s Adrian Banks (25 points), and Cal’s Jerome Randle (22 points). While the game was hard fought and close until the closing seconds, mostly due to Jerusalem’s woeful free throw shooting (13/26), it will ultimately be remembered as the closing act of Bradley’s short time in Israel.
Bradley’s stint with Jerusalem comes to a close less than a month after he landed in Israel, after a mediocre three game showing in which he averaged 13.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 0.7 assists and 3.7 turnovers in 30.7 minutes per game. Bradley didn’t sign with Jerusalem until the end of the preseason, and for the second consecutive season, he joined a team without going through training camp. Coming in without a chance to learn the system, Bradley didn’t really have an opportunity to get on the same page with his teammates. This game was the first time Bradley seemed to understand the team’s plays and defensive schemes, and it’s a shame he isn’t willing to stick around longer to see what he can do.
Hapoel Jerusalem plays in the Eurocup, a highly competitive international league that is essentially the second division of the Euroleague. Bradley’s 10 AM Tuesday morning flight comes exactly one week before Jerusalem was set to open their season in the Eurocup. It is understandable that Bradley has felt homesick and frustrated playing in Israel, but without a signed collective bargaining agreement, his decision to return home is quite perplexing. He was just starting to get a feel for the system, and he had a chance to get some good minutes on one of the bigger teams in Europe. Instead, Bradley may find it difficult to find work overseas if the lockout ends up wiping out the entire season and more NBA players head to Europe.
Bradley definitely was an above average player in his time with Jerusalem, but he fell far short of the lofty expectations that accompanied him. Many expected Bradley could come to Israel and dominate right away, forgetting that he is a 21 year old with very little experience and a shaky jumper. Jerusalem is a team with a strong tradition, and I’m not sure Bradley was prepared to adjust to the playing style and demands of a big European team. Tonight it appeared that Bradley had found his niche on Hapoel, as he showed immense creativity in getting himself to the basket, but it looks like his time will end before he has a chance to put it all together.
The game was also (Stanford product and New Jersey native) bobble head connoisseur Dan Grunfeld’s first game with Jerusalem after he transferred from Hapoel Holon several days earlier. Grunfeld, who became an Israeli citizen last year, was the leading scorer among Israeli players last season, with 13.7 points per game for Bnei Hasharon. The signing should prove to be a major boost for Jerusalem both on and off the court, as Grunfeld has a high basketball IQ, which should be valuable when preparing for Eurocup games, and his presence in the locker room will hopefully bring some stability to a group that has been having some issues lately. When asked what his feelings were on signing with Jerusalem, Grunfeld said, “I’m very happy to be part of a club like Hapoel Jerusalem. Hapoel has a lot of tradition and I’m excited to get familiar with my teammates and to try to help the team win games. Playing in European competition is also a great opportunity to compete against some of the best teams overseas, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
All in all, Bradley’s short tenure in Israel serves as another reminder to Americans, that NBA players and top level college players cannot just come overseas and destroy people as many would like to believe. It is not uncommon for players who either played in the NBA, or were all-conference players in college, to come overseas and really struggle. The only players who truly excel in Europe are the ones who come over with a respectful attitude, take the time to learn about their teams before signing, and are prepared to make adjustments and work their butts off. Without coming prepared and in the right mindset, NBA player or not, it is very difficult to succeed overseas.