SALT LAKE CITY – The lane most folks expect to see Salah Mejri operating from is the one located inside the paint. But recently, the 7-2 Dallas Mavericks’ center has expanded his game to include the 3-point shot.
In Friday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, Mejri attempted a pair of 3-pointers and wound up converting one of them, which sent the Mavs’ bench into a frenzy. It was Mejri’s second successful 3-pointer in his career.
However, it may be the beginning of things to come.
“Three weeks ago I got with him and talked to him about working on it, because there are many alignments now in the league where the (center) is spotted in the corner, and in some cases open from beyond the arc,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s such an important weapon to have.
“During that period of time he wasn’t playing a whole lot. And I said to him, ‘Hey look, you ought to spend time taking a lot of threes, get used to stepping into them, do it in practice, do it off of conditioning type workouts so you’ll get the rhythm of doing it when you have some fatigue, and it’s something that can extend your career.’
“He’s shot free throws better this year and he was one for two from three the other night (against the Nuggets).”
Now in his fourth season, Mejri entered this season just 1-of-7 from behind the 3-point line. He’s now 2-of-12 from the 3-point stripe, including his only missed attempt from downtown during Saturday’s 125-109 loss to the Utah Jazz.
“For me to be out on floor I need to have something to offer, and that’s the 3-point shot,” Mejri said. “(Friday) they backed off of me and I tried and shot it and made one, and the next time I shot another one and I was short.
“But if I keep working on them and I get an open look, why not? I had been shooting them before when I was in Europe, and I was shooting a lot, too.”
By the way, prior to draining that 3-pointer against the Nuggets – on a step-back play – Mejri’s only made trey in the NBA came during the 2016-’17 regular season finale at Memphis. And as the Mavs prepare to play the Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday at 9:30 p.m., Carlisle doesn’t expect the Tunisian to hesitate any more if he gets an open look from outside the 3-point arc.
“Salah’s got a good touch,” Carlisle said. “He shoots the ball better than a lot of people think.”