Mekel turns down Mac TA, J’lem, joins Russian club Novgorod

The 26-year-old guard was cut by the New Orleans Pelicans back in December.

February 25, 2015 05:25
1 minute read.

Israel national team guard Gal Mekel joined BC Nizhny Novgorod of Russia yesterday at least until the end of the season. . (photo credit: GERMAN BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION)

After more than two months without a team and weeks of speculation connecting him with a move back to Israel, Gal Mekel joined BC Nizhny Novgorod of Russia on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old guard, who was cut by the New Orleans Pelicans back in December, turned down offers from Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem, choosing instead to sign a one-and-a-half year deal with Novgorod.

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Jerusalem was the front runner to sign Mekel, but the fact the team will only play one BSL game a week until the end of the season ultimately brought the guard to choose Nizhny, which plays in the Euroleague and VTB.

“I’m very excited to come to Nizhny and help this team in the Euroleague and VTB league,” said Mekel, who played just four games for New Orleans, which he joined one month after being released by the Dallas Mavericks. “I know coach Bagatskis very well and this was perhaps the key for this decision. I also heard a lot about NN this season and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Another reason behind Mekel’s decision was the clause allowing him to leave Novgorod for the NBA for free until August 28.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards are among several teams who are considering bringing Mekel back to the NBA this summer.

Mekel is expected to make his debut for Novgorod on March 1 against Lokomotiv Kuban in VTB action.

“I’ve known this player for a while now,” said head coach Ainars Bagatskis. “In the summer of 2013 we had an agreement that he would move to Budyvelnik, but he obviously chose the NBA.

“He’s an experienced player and a very positive person, which is quite important. It’s great news for the club that he agreed to sign a deal until the end of next season.”

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