Las Vegas -- Shane Larkin’s ankle injury moved Gal Mekel into a more prominent role in the summer league and ended up giving Mekel the opportunity to be the most consistent player on the floor for the Mavs.
He finished the summer league by averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 assists while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range. Not bad, considering the Mavs ended the summer league playing four games in four days.
“For me, I think it was a great week the first time getting to know the NBA game,” Mekel said. “I think I played pretty good for the first time.
Prior to the summer league team leaving for Las Vegas, Mekel, 25, was considered a unique prospect because no one really knew what kind of game he had. Fresh off a title and MVP award in Israel, the guard’s resume impressed his coach.
“Gal has been a very successful player internationally,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said during the team’s introductory news conference last week. “I know he’s a big hero in Israel. We think he’s a very good player, but we want to make sure the expectations here are not that he’s going to come in here and be the star player right away.
“We think he’s young enough to where he’s a good player and can get better. He’s a rookie in this league.”
While he is a rookie, Mekel isn’t lacking in the confidence department. The confidence comes from the fact that Maccabi Tel Aviv has been seen as the dominant team over the past 40 years in Israel. It's won the Israeli championship 36 out of those 40 years. Mekel was the best player on two of the four teams that did not win the league over that period.
When talk of Mekel’s confidence came up, Carlisle said, “They just won the Israeli championship a month ago. Wouldn’t you be a little confident, too?
“That’s not surprise. The challenge for him is to continue to trend his game where it needs to go to be the kind of guy we think he can be on our team.”
Playing in a competitive Israeli league and really developing his skill over the past two years, Mekel crafted his game to a level at which he felt comfortable enough to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. As his confidence and playing ability rose, he realized the time was right for him to really go for it.
When second-year forward Jae Crowder was asked about Mekel’s game, he instantly lit up with a huge smile.
“He’s a good player. You can tell he knows how to play basketball. He has that Euro swag about him, like [Manu] Ginobili, so he won’t back down from anybody,” Crowder said. “He feels like he can help us. He has a great upside, and he knows he can play basketball.”
Mekel didn’t know what to make of his teammate’s comments, but he wanted to reinforce the point that he is excited to play. “I love the game. When I’m on the floor, I’m having fun,” he said. “I’m not feeling like I’m playing under pressure or something. It’s just about playing and having fun.”
Now that the summer league is over and preparation for training camp beings, it’s up to him to brace for the adjustment that will have to come by playing in the NBA.
“I think in every stage in your career, when you face a new challenge, you have to make adjustments. I’m sure I’ll have to adjust to a few things here,” Mekel said. “The speed and the athleticism here is much different than it was in Europe.
“I’m willing to learn. I’m a marathon runner, so I have time. I want to learn and I want to get better. With hard work, results come.”
Can he make the adjustment to the NBA?
“I’m pretty confident I can make the adjustment,” Mekel said.
Circumstances made it to so he was relied upon more than most people expected in Vegas.
As he now heads into a period during which he can train for his first season in NBA, confidence will be a key. It certainly appears he’s not lacking in that department.