DALLAS — It’s been a whirlwind three weeks for Dallas Mavericks rookie Gal Mekel, but Friday night marks the end of the 25-year-old’s first NBA training camp and preseason.
Thrust into the starting lineup when first-string point guard Jose Calderon was hampered by a strain left hamstring through the Mavericks’ first four exhibition games, Mekel was forced to adjust to the NBA game on the fly after capturing two Israeli MVP awards during his international career. Now, with veteran Devin Harris (toe surgery) and fellow rookie Shane Larkin (ankle surgery) not expected to be ready to go when the regular season tips off, Mekel finds himself as the Mavs’ backup point guard for Opening Night.
“It was a good three weeks for me,” Mekel said as he and his teammates prepared for the Indiana Pacers Friday night to conclude the preseason.
He added: “I feel that I improved every game. I’m learning every practice and every game, and it was good for me to go with the first group the first four games to get the feeling, although I was thrown into the deep water right away. I really feel much more comfortable. Things slowed down and that’s it. I’m trying to help the team every way that I can, and last game I was coming off the bench and bringing energy with the second unit. Like I said, I feel comfortable.”
Through the first seven exhibition games, Mekel has steadily earned more and more of Mavs coach Rick Carlisle’s trust. The 6-foot-3 floor general is averaging 6.1 points, 2.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists in preseason play, making up for his 3.57 turnovers an outing and just 36.2 percent shooting from the field.
Still, after seeing Mekel grow right before his very eyes, Carlisle says he will enter the season ready to put the ball in the young guard’s hands when Calderon heads to the bench. That trust will also be evident Friday night against an Indiana team that came one win away from reaching the NBA Finals a season ago.
“Well, [Mekel] has gotten better and better, and he’s one of our best defenders at either of the two guard spots,” Carlisle said. “You know, I like where he’s at right now. We’ve got another chance to look tonight at another top-five team in the league, and so we’ll see. But with his improvements and the solid aspects of his game, I like the way he’s playing.
“I mean, the first four games he was starting, because there was no Jose either. And that’s been a very good situation for him. It’s really helped him see a lot of things and get used to a lot of things about this league. And the schedule has been very good, because we’re play a lot of really good teams.”
Note: The Mavericks (4-3) return to American Airlines Center when they conclude the preseason Friday night against the Indiana Pacers (2-5). The game will air locally on TXA 21 at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.
“Well, [Mekel] has gotten better and better, and he’s one of our best defenders at either of the two guard spots,” Carlisle Said. Wow, I thought I saw improvement since summer league in Gal's lateral movement defensively and he seems to be moving better each game., however, i'm a little stunned at the comment given he's new to the league. I don't look at Gal as a rookie in the strict sense of the word since he's fairly experienced professionally, still that says an awful lot about his want to if he's already one of the better defenders in the back court. His shot particularly the floaters in the paint continue to look better as well. He's figuring some things out. Good for him.