Gal Mekel, the second Israeli to play in the NBA, finds himself at a crossroads in his career after being waived for the second time in two months, and now must decide whether to wait for future offers or to sign with one of the franchises that are already vying for his services.
Recent reports have said that two Israeli league teams, defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv and its rival Hapoel Jerusalem, are trying to sign the free agent point guard, although sources close to Mekel said they believe his first preference is to return to the NBA.
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Mekel was waived by the New Orleans Pelicans earlier this month after just two weeks with the team. He joined the Pelicans on December 5 as an unrestricted free agent and appeared in four games, averaging 1.5 points and 3.3 assists, NBA.com said.
The Wichita State product played in 31 games for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2013-14 season and appeared in all eight of Dallas’ 2014 preseason games.
Mekel played two seasons at Wichita State before leaving school early to play professionally in Europe. He was on the roster for Treviso in the Italian League and for Maccabi Haifa, where he won his second Israeli League MVP award by averaging 13.3 points and 5.4 assists while leading his team to the championship.
Mekel considers himself to be a true point guard, desiring to pass instead of looking to shoot as a first option, the Times Picayune said.
”Potentially he has the ability to be a true point guard, ” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said after Mekel joined the team. ”I’ve done some research on him; talked to his former coach. Everything comes back in that regard that he’s more of a facilitator than a scorer.
”I like that he can pass. He puts his passes on the button. He’s a big guard. I like the way he ran Dallas team in the preseason and maybe he’s grown up as a player.”
The Pelicans had signed the 6-foot-3, 191-pound Mekel to a two-year, non-guaranteed contract.
Currently, the only Israeli in the NBA is forward Omri Casspi of the Sacramento Kings, the first Israeli-born player in the league.
Israel has long been considered especially avid about the NBA.
“The Israeli players, these are really passionate guys, ” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said in 2013. “I had Sarunas Jasikevicious several years ago when he came to the NBA (when Carlisle was a Pacers assistant.) He had just played for Maccabi Tel Aviv. He couldn’t stop raving about how great it was playing basketball in that country, how competitive, how passionate and everything else. I see it in these two guys. These guys love to play. They feel an international sense of pride and responsibility. It’s awesome for the game.”