DALLAS -- Ready or not, rookie point guard Gal Mekel got thrown right into the starting lineup.
It’s not like coach Rick Carlisle had much choice than to go with the Israeli import. Starter Jose Calderon is nursing a tight hamstring that will keep him out of at least one more preseason game. Backup Devin Harris, who is recovering from toe surgery, isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the regular season. First-round pick Shane Larkin is still recovering from ankle surgery and might not be able to play any in the preseason.
So Mekel, a 25-year-old making the leap from a league that isn’t considered close to elite by European standards, matched up with All-Star Jrue Holiday in the Mavs’ preseason-opening loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. There was some good (five rebounds, five assists in 19 minutes), some bad (1-of-5 shooting) and some ugly (five turnovers).
“I thought he gained a lot of experience in a short period of time,” Carlisle said. “He went through a lot. Holiday is a very good offensive player and he’s a strong defensive player. There were some things that happened out there.
“It’s literally getting thrown into the deep end of the ocean when you jump into the NBA coming from a European league like that. Especially, it’s kind of an unfair thing for him to have to do right now, but he’ll learn more doing this and having a chance to start some games than coming off the bench and having a chance to play little bit roles here and there.”
Mekel, who signed a three-year guaranteed minimum deal with the Mavs this summer, didn’t look out of place. He wasn’t overmatched against Holiday, who had 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting and six assists in 24 minutes. Mekel was proud of his defensive performance and figures he can clean up some of the unforced errors he made offensively.
“For the first time, it felt good,” Mekel said. “I’m sure that I’ll learn from every game.”
The Mavs hope that Mekel has to earn his minutes this season, but he’s an intriguing prospect. At 6-foot-3, 191 pounds, he has good size and strength for a point guard and has a natural knack for probing the defense and passing. He needs to break some bad defensive habits -- starting with a tendency to use his hands -- and develop a jumper. He could see most of his regular-season playing time up the tollway in Frisco.
“He’ll be fun to watch, but he’s a rookie,” owner Mark Cuban said. “He’s going to have to go through a learning curve.”