Maccabi Tel Aviv signs US recruit

NBA hopeful Malcolm Thomas joins Israeli basketball powerhouse

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Malcolm Thomas dunking the ball (photo credit: SD Dirk/Wiki Commons CCA 2.0)
Malcolm Thomas dunking the ball (photo credit: SD Dirk/Wiki Commons CCA 2.0)
Malcolm Thomas dunking the ball (photo credit: SD Dirk/Wiki Commons CCA 2.0)
Malcolm Thomas (photo credit: CC BY SD Dirk,Wikipedia)

Former NBA basketball player Malcolm Thomas has signed a one-year contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, with the option of extending through the end of the 2013-2014 season.

Maccabi head coach David Blatt said he was happy to have signed “a quality player like Malcolm Thomas” at such a relatively late date.

The Tel Aviv team had signed British player Pops Mensah-Bonsu for the coming season, but released him after he failed to pass a medical examination due to a knee injury incurred while playing for Great Britain during the London Olympics this summer.

With the Euroleague season beginning next week, Blatt said he hoped Thomas would bring Maccabi Tel Aviv “a lot of energy in various categories on both ends of the court.”

Malcolm Thomas in play (Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Thomas (Courtesy Maccabi Tel Aviv)

The 23-year-old basketball player has bounced around in his professional career. He was not selected in the 2011 NBA draft, and then played for Mobis Phoebus in the Korean Basketball League during the 2011 NBA lockout.

He was being considered by NBA team Miami Heat when he signed with Maccabi.

In the last year he played for five different teams, first signing with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers in December 2011 before being reassigned to their Development League team, the D-Fenders. By early January 2012, Thomas had quit the D-Fenders and was signed by the San Antonio Spurs, which then waived him, sending him on to the Houston Rockets, which assigned him to NBA D-League team the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

According to basketball website Sportando, Thomas has “managed to produce at every spot,” despite the reassignments. The son of star college basketball player Malcolm Thomas, who played for the University of Missouri in the 1980s but never made the NBA, the younger Thomas is seen as a promising talent.

Craig Smith while playing for Clippers (photo credit: Keith Allison/Wiki Commons CCA-SA 2.0)
Craig Smith in Clippers uniform (photo credit: Keith Allison/Wiki Commons CCA-SA 2.0)

He’s joined in Israel by NBA player Craig Smith, who signed with Hapoel Jerusalem, following six NBA seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. For many NBA hopefuls, Israeli teams offer the opportunity to play in a European basketball league, as well as a starring role in the local Israeli competition.

Upon arrival in Israel, Smith said Israel isn’t a step down from the NBA, given that the lockout left out a lot of “middle class” players.

The Jerusalem team signed star American player DJ Strawberry last year, but he was playing for Hapoel Holon by the summer and left Israel for Croatia to join Cibona Zagreb this season.

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