The Dallas Mavericks will go into their crucial Tuesday meeting with Dwight Howard having already secured one of the first verbal commitments of 2013 free agency in the NBA.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Mavericks, in the early hours of Monday, received word from Israeli point guard Gal Mekel that he is committing to sign a multiyear guaranteed contract at a league-minimum salary after the NBA's annual moratorium on signings and trades is lifted July 10.
Mekel's agent, Sam Porter, confirmed his client's intention to sign a three-year contract with the Mavericks later this month. The value of the deal is $2.3 million guaranteed over the next three seasons, with Mekel immediately scheduled to join the Mavericks' summer-league team that will be playing in Las Vegas.
Although the Mavericks are not allowed to publicly discuss the move until the moratorium is lifted, NBA rules allow players and teams to strike verbal agreements during the leaguewide freeze on business. And the fact that Mekel, sources say, has agreed to accept a minimum salary means that Dallas can come to terms with him safe in the knowledge that it would be able to formally sign him to a minimum deal either following the successful recruitment of Howard or -- if the Mavericks lose out in the Dwight Sweepstakes to the favored Houston Rockets or the incumbent Los Angeles Lakers -- after using up all its available salary-cap space on other free agents.
When he officially signs with Dallas, Mekel will become just the second Israeli player in NBA history, joining free-agent forward Omri Casspi.
To clinch the deal with Mekel, amid serious interest from Milwaukee, Toronto, Atlanta, Indiana and Memphis, sources say Dallas has agreed to give a multiyear guaranteed contract to the 25-year-old, who fast-tracked himself as an NBA prospect after a breakout season in his native country in which he led unfancied Maccabi Haifa to the Israeli championship over perennial powerhouse Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv.
Mekel arrived in the U.S. shortly after Haifa's title and, according to sources, immediately had a strong audition for the Bucks. He was similarly impressive in a workout for the Mavericks last week, sources said, before proceeding to an audition with the Hawks.
When he officially signs later this month, Mekel will join first-round pick Shane Larkin in the Mavericks' new-look rotation of point guards after Dallas acquired Larkin's draft rights Thursday night when he was selected 18th overall. Unrestricted free agent Darren Collison, who started 47 games last season, is not expected back in Dallas, with fellow unrestricted free agent Rodrigue Beaubois' future with the team also uncertain.
Mekel has made major progress since his days at Wichita State from 2006-08 and increasingly appeals to NBA teams thanks to his size, ability to lead a team and, most of all, his pick-and-roll proficiency. The Utah Jazz were the first team to register NBA interest in Mekel last fall, but visa issues prevented him from accepting Utah's invitation to training camp and ultimately led him to sign with Maccabi Haifa.
The success of Pablo Prigioni's jump directly from Europe to the NBA as a point guard with the New York Knicks at age 35 has spawned the belief that Mekel -- 10 years younger -- can do the same. Coached by former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Brad Greenberg with Haifa this past season, Mekel has quickly convinced NBA talent evaluators that he can immediately become an off-the-bench contributor in the NBA who, at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, might actually be more effective in the American game than he is internationally because the lane tends to be so much more clogged overseas.
Mekel was named MVP in Israel for the 2012-13 season after Haifa toppled Maccabi Tel Aviv for the Israeli Super League championship. It's his second MVP trophy in four pro seasons in Israel; Mekel also spent an injury-plagued season in Benetton Treviso in Italy in 2011-12.