In 2020, when Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge drafted 19-year-old Israeli Yam Madar in the second round with the 47th overall pick, Ainge knew the lanky 6-foot-3 point guard would not immediately compete for a roster spot.
A so-called “draft-and-stash pick,” the Celtics were well aware that Madar still had time on his contract with Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League, but they were willing to wait and monitor his development.
“He’s a player that we’ve watched over there in Israel play quite a bit,” said Ainge at the time. “We’ll just see how it works out. I don’t really know.”
Well, it seems the Celtics might know sooner than later. According to Israeli sports news outlet Sport5’s Omri Manheim, Madar is attempting to secure his release from Hapoel—and he’s willing to go to court to do so.
On February 2, Madar and his representatives filed a lawsuit seeking arbitration related to the expiration of his contract, claiming that although his contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, Hapoel is still demanding $700,000 in exchange for their blessing. To the contrary, officials for Hapoel claim Madar’s contract doesn’t expire till the end of the 2021-22 season, which is the reason they are enforcing a monetary buyout.
It remains to be seen what will ultimately happen as Madar’s lawsuit works its way through the Israeli court system, and there’s certainly no guarantee the energetic ballhandler will make the team. But given the Celtics’ current issues at point guard (ahem, Jeff Teague and Kemba Walker) some Boston fans are already delighting at the prospect of Madar joining the team.
Never seen Yam Madar play but he’s already better than Teague
— DIEHARD CELTS FAN ☘️☘️ (@playoffCarsen4) February 6, 2021
Playmaker Who Makes His Teammates Better
Madar, now 20, has been playing professional ball since 2018 when he signed a four-year contract with Hapoel. In July of 2020, Madar was named Israeli Basketball Premier League Most Improved Player, the youngest player to ever receive the award. (The Israeli Premiere League started in 1953, but the Most Improved award has only been around since 2008.)
In 16 games this season, Madar, whose highlights bring to mind a young Ricky Rubio but with better range, is averaging 16.1 points and 5.2 assists while shooting 46.5% from the field and 40% from behind the arc. ESPN’s NBA Draft Analyst Mike Schmitz described Madar as “fearless, tenacious and electric with the ball in his hands.”
NBA.com, in their 2020 draft evaluation, observed that Madar is “a quick decision maker who has great court vision and ball-handling skills, playing lower and wider with his feet. He makes his teammates better with his excellent playmaking ability. He’s a great passer who often surprises the fans with his quick and sharp dimes.”
From All-Tournament to the NBA Draft
Madar’s selection in the 2020 draft was, in some sense, a matter of happenstance. Back in July of 2019, Madar participated in the Under-20 European Championships, an event attended by numerous NBA scouts and executives looking to evaluate Israel’s superstar prospect, 6-foot-9 forward Deni Avdija. Avdija would go on to win MVP of the tournament and be selected 9th overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2020 draft.
But the surprise of the event was Madar, who, in seven games, averaged 15.9 points, 7.7 assists and shot 53.1% from the field and 47.6% from the 3-point line. He was selected to the All-Tournament team that July and only four months later by the Celtics in the NBA draft.