The Maccabi Haifa basketball team — a club in the top professional league in Israel — is coming to Oakland to play a preseason game against the Golden State Warriors, who began training camp this week.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11 at Oracle Arena. Following the game, Maccabi Haifa players will engage in a Q&A with members of the Jewish community.
In addition, Maccabi players and coaches will take part in a basketball clinic on Oct. 10 for a mix of kids: some from less-privileged backgrounds and some from the Jewish Community High School of the Bay and the JCC of San Francisco. It’s being organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Israel Center and the S.F. Recreation and Parks Department.
This marks the second trip to the United States in three years for Maccabi Haifa. In 2010, the team played the New Jersey Nets and lost by nearly 40 points. Last year, Maccabi was scheduled to play the Orlando Magic, but the game was cancelled due to an NBA lockout. On this trip, Maccabi also will play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 16.
Maccabi Haifa is owned by Florida-based billionaire Jeff Rosen, who purchased the team in 2007, changed its name to the Maccabi Haifa Heat and immediately went about signing top talent. After a 10-year absence from the top division, Maccabi returned to Ligat HaAl four years ago, and went to the finals in 2008-2009.
“Our goal is to build Maccabi Bazan Haifa into one of the strongest brands in international basketball,” Rosen said in a press release on the Israeli Embassy website, “and playing against NBA competition annually will only increase our team’s popularity.”
Bazan refers to Oil Refineries Ltd. (Bazan), which became the team’s chief sponsor in November 2011.
Maccabi Haifa is one of the top division’s original eight teams from 1953; however, the team has never won a championship and in the 1990s it fell into the lower divisions.
Under Rosen, the club has made the playoffs in three of the past five seasons. It plays in the newly renovated 5,000-seat Romema Arena, now the country’s second largest indoor arena.
The new coach of the team this season is Brad Greenberg, the general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers when they drafted Allen Iverson in 1996. He also has been an assistant NBA coach and college head coach at Radford University.
Maccabi Haifa features seven U.S. players, including 6-foot-8 former Texas University star James Thomas, who played with four NBA teams from 2004 to 2006 and since has kicked around the European leagues.
Coincidentally, one of the players in training camp with the Warriors is a former Maccabi Haifa player, Jeremy Tyler. The 6-10 center-forward made big news in 2009 when he decided to forego his senior year of high school in San Diego to go pro in Israel, signing a $140,000 deal with Maccabi Haifa.
Jennifer Gorovitz, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, pointed out that “Haifa is the sister city of San Francisco, and we are always looking for opp-ortunities to create meaningful exchanges.”
Maccabi Haifa is noted for is its charity program, Haifa Hoops for Kids. Donors in North America and Israel help send underprivileged and special-needs kids from Israel to Maccabi Haifa home games. It’s a joint initiative between the team and the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey.
Maccabi Haifa vs. Golden State Warriors, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11 at Oracle Arena, Oakland. Limited number of $10 tickets through the Israel Center, call (415) 369-2873 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Other tickets and information: www.jewishfed.org/event.