DALLAS — Hoping not to become the forgot man in the Dallas Mavericks’ backcourt, second-year guard Gal Mekel believes that a summer of basketball will boost his chances of cracking the rotation this upcoming season.
Playing in 31 games as a 25-year-old rookie during the 2013-14 campaign, Mekel averaged just 2.4 points and 2.0 assists before undergoing surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee on Jan. 17 that ended his season. The two-time Israeli MVP also struggled with his perimeter shooting before sustaining the injury, connecting on only 34.9 percent from the field and 25.0 percent from behind the arc in his first year.
Still, after looking comfortable in his second summer running the Mavs’ system while helping to lead Dallas’ summer-league squad before competing with the Israeli national team, Mekel believes that he will see much more success in Year 2.
“I didn’t play for a long time because of my injury, and that’s the first time that I’m going to play five-on-five after a long time. I’m going to have a long summer with summer league and then the national team in Israel, so I’m looking forward to this summer to get back in the groove,” Mekel said.
He added: “I took three weeks off in the summer and got a lot of treatment, and I can say that I’m feeling good. … [Outside shooting] is what me and the coaches are talking about, especially the three-point shots. If I’m going to make them consistently and a good percentage, I can really help our team during the season. And this is what I want to work on.”
Leaving Las Vegas with his best performance coming in the Mavericks’ fourth of five summer-league contests, Mekel showcased his all-around skills while scoring 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, grabbing down five rebounds and dishing out six assists in a last-second 82-81 loss to Charlotte on July 16. He now hopes to help his home country qualify for EuroBasket 2015.
But, upon returning stateside, Mekel will face a far different challenge when the Mavericks begin training camp after the team stockpiled at the point guard position during the offseason.
Trading away last season’s starting lead guard, Jose Calderon, to New York in the six-player deal that brought back center Tyson Chandler to Dallas, the Mavericks landed veteran Raymond Felton to help fill the void. The Mavs re-signed Devin Harris and inked former All-Star Jameer Nelson as well during free agency, giving coach Rick Carlisle three veteran floor generals at his disposal.
Now, Mekel will once again have to compete for time on the court while showing that he’s elevated his play from a season ago. With that said, don’t be surprised if Mekel makes his way onto the hardwood next season following a summer of hard work.
“Well, he’s worked hard,” Carlisle said of Mekel’s progression entering his second season. “You know, he’s had to overcome an injury situation, which has been challenging. But it looks like he’s gotten to a point where he is good with his knee. You know, he just needs to get out there and play. His shooting has gotten better, he’s a good ball handler, he knows how to run a team and he’s got a real knack for getting in the paint and making things happen.”