Israeli point guard Gal Mekel, who has been a free agent since last month, is working out and practicing in the hope that an NBA team will extend him an offer to return to the league, the Jerusalem Post said.
Mekel seemed to have a promising future ahead of him, having entered the current season with two guaranteed years remaining on his contract with the Dallas Mavericks. But the team chose to release Mekel after it added point guard J.J. Barea to the roster.
“The future is very bright for Gal, ” said Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson at the time. “He’s got a big upside and is developing ahead of schedule. We wouldn’t have even considered this move if it weren’t for the unlikely scenario where a player of J.J.’s caliber was available.”
After less than a week as a free agent, Mekel seemed to have found a new home in Indiana, but a procedural delay in securing a new visa thwarted his expected move to the Pacers. Mekel had selected Indiana over the injury-hit Oklahoma City as he believed he would receive a bigger role on the team, but ended up empty-handed, the Post said.
Mekel ultimately spent over a month as a free agent at that time. He practiced with his personal trainer in Florida before securing a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans at the beginning of December.
New Orleans, widely considered to be one of the up-and-coming teams in the league, seemed ideal as it gave him the chance to establish himself as the Pelicans’ main backup point guard behind starter Jrue Holiday.
The Pelicans signed him to a two-year, non-guaranteed contract that included an option which allowed New Orleans to release Mekel before January 10 without compensation. That hardly seemed likely at the time, but just two weeks after joining the team, Mekel found himself on the waiver wire once more, the Post said.
He played just four games for the team, averaging 1.5 points and 3.3 assists over 10.9 minutes of action.
New Orleans head coach Monty Williams was, predictably, extremely complimentary of Mekel’s capabilities. “We like (Mekel) a lot. That doesn’t mean we won’t bring him back. But at this point we felt like we were going to go in a different direction. He was a positive for our team”, he said.
That was almost two weeks ago and Mekel remains without a team. He considered returning to Israel or Europe, negotiating with both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem among others, but eventually decided to continue chasing his NBA dream.
“After I was released by New Orleans I received several offers from Europe and Israel, ” Mekel said in a statement. “I wanted to give them the respect they deserve and listen to them all…It is no secret that I really want to remain in the NBA and I believe with all my heart that I can succeed in this league. But I also really want to play, lead and realize my potential.”
Mekel’s best option to return to the NBA will likely be through a 10-day contract, which teams will be able to offer to players from next Monday. If he proves himself in three games, he could be offered another 10-day contract and ultimately be signed until the end of the season.