So why are the Trail Blazers playing an Israeli club team in preseason?

Blazers schedule: What part matters most?

So why are the Trail Blazers playing an Israeli club team in preseason?
August 18, 2014, 2:15 pm
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I'm not picking on the Portland Trail Blazers here at all, because they are far from the only NBA team to do this kind of thing over the last several seasons.

In fact, Maccabi Haifa plays three other NBA teams on its North American tour this season. All I'm saying is this: Why would you play this team?

Maccabi Haifi plays in the "Israeli Basketball Super League," which is the top division in that country. But that league is not considered among the world's elite leagues. Last season Haifi came within a few points of winning the league championship but lost thanks to allowing a wrong-headed soccer scheduling move to influence the championship series.

Maccabi Haifi made it to the league finals vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv but for the first time, the finals were decided in a two-game, home-and-home playoff, with total score determining the winner. In a crazy outcome, Haifi lost the first game by four points but won the second game by four -- which necessitated an overtime period because the overall series was then tied. Haifi won the overtime by two, but that wasn't enough and it lost the overall series.

Crazy stuff.

This is not a storied European franchise with a lot of well-known NBA or even European stars on its roster over the years. New Cleveland Coach David Blatt played there and former Trail Blazer VP of player personnel Brad Greenberg coached there in 2012-13. He led the team to its first league title behind MVP Gal Mekel, a point guard who played 31 games with the Dallas Mavericks last season.

Portland General Manager Neil Olshey put it in perspective:

"Maccabi Haifa is a top international team and we're looking forward to a competitive preseason game with them," he said. "This matchup gives our fans the unique opportunity to experience international basketball, and friendly exhibitions like this go a long way in further advancing the game globally."

A league source put it similarly for me:

"The NBA is very committed to advancing the game globally," he said. "Teams are asked periodically to play games like this in order to aid that cause."

The way I look at it is that if your team is asked to help advance the game globally, this is a whole lot better than having to fly halfway around the world to play somebody.