Mavericks rookie guard Gal Mekel made professionalism a higher priority than patriotism this summer, and his Israel coach seems rather irate about it.
Mekel opted to train at the Mavs’ facility instead of playing for Israel in September’s EuroBasket tournament, prompting Israel coach Arik Shivek to criticize Mavs management in an interview with the Jerusalem Post earlier this week.
“Mekel told me that he was put in a room with general manager Donnie Nelson and all the coaches and they told him that as a rookie he would have a better chance of playing more minutes at the start of the season if he takes part in the preliminary training camp as well as the final camp,” Shivek told the newspaper.
“I was very surprised and so was Gal. Mekel then put Donnie Nelson on the phone, who I know from his time in Europe, and I told him what I thought of what they are doing to Gal. I think they are not being fair and are putting him in an impossible situation.”
Mekel, who signed a three-year guaranteed minimum contract with the Mavs, doesn’t see it that way.
“I understood that in order to have a good rookie season I need to get to Dallas early and work according to the team’s program,” Mekel told the newspaper. “I really love the national team, but I came to the conclusion that if I want to remain an NBA player for many years, then my rookie season is very important.
“I think that in the long run this will also benefit Israeli basketball. I’m only 25 and I’ve got 10 more years to play for Israel.”
It was a wise decision by the point guard whose intelligence is one of his best attributes. If the Israel coach can’t understand that, he clearly doesn’t have Mekel’s best interests in mind.