Israel’s Gal Mekel Signs with NBA’s Dallas Mavericks

July 2, 2013  

Maccabi Haifa’s Gal Mekel has signed a multi-year deal to play for the Dallas Mavericks next season, becoming the second Israeli basketball player ever to sign with an NBA team. It was only four years ago that Omri Casspi paved the way from Israel to the best hoops league in the world.

A little more than two weeks ago, while Haifa’s players slowly recovered from their rowdy Israeli league championship celebrations after upsetting powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, Mekel was already flying to the U.S. for personal tryouts with several NBA teams. Hung over or not, the 25-year-old point guard was shooting for a bigger dream.

Even at 9 a.m. Monday morning in Tampa Bay, where he has been working on his game with personal trainer David Thorpe, Mekel didn’t have time for celebrations. As is his custom, he stepped onto the practice court as if nothing had changed. That’s just the way he goes about his business.

According to the NBA’s free agent rules, Mekel will officially be able to sign his $2.3 million, three-year contract next Wednesday, and the player who began the season without a team will be presented to the Dallas fans at a Mavericks press conference.

The Mavericks initially offered Mekel a one-year deal with a team option to renew him for two more years, but by the end of negotiations with his agent, Sam Porter, Dallas agreed to guarantee the entire three years. Mekel is expected to earn $490,000 this upcoming season ($816,000 in his second year and $980,000 in his third), which would leave him with around $250,000 after taxes. Mekel was willing to give up on a lot of money elsewhere to realize his dream of playing in the NBA. If he would have gone to Europe, he could have made twice, if not three times as much money.

Next season’s roster situation is still up in the air in Dallas. The team has cleared significant cap space to make a run at signing free agent Dwight Howard. Mekel’s cheap contract, Dallas management hopes, is another step toward securing the prized center.

Last year, Mekel decided that he would make his push this season to play in the best league in the world. He struggled to latch onto a team after a difficult year with Italy’s Benetton Treviso, during which he was injured for most of the season. Mekel chose to attend Thorpe’s training camp, after which he was invited try out for the Utah Jazz. The Jazz expressed some interest in Mekel, but technical obstacles pertaining to a work visa prevented negotiations from proceeding.

It was then that Mekel understood that he had something to offer in the NBA, but even he never imagined his dream would be reached so quickly. Over the past several weeks Mekel has tried out for the Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas, and was poised to announce which team’s Summer League squad he would join to further showcase his talents.

The offer from Dallas, however, changed everything. Perhaps this year’s weak draft class led teams to look for more creative roster solutions overseas.

Mekel will play for the Mavericks’ Summer League team in Las Vegas and then belatedly join the Israeli national team as it prepares for the European Championships. From there he will move to Dallas, where he will start training camp alongside NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki.

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  1. By maccabette, July 3, 2013

    Gal is so amazing!


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