Regardless of what one may think of Gal Mekel’s decision to pull out of the
upcoming EuroBasket tournament, he does not deserve the criticism he has endured
in recent days.
Israel coach Arik Shivek took aim at the NBA’s Dallas
Mavericks organization on Monday for acting unfairly towards their new rookie
guard and putting him in an “impossible situation.”
It is true that, in
theory, Mekel could have told Dallas that with all due respect to its plans for
him, he intends to represent Israel in September’s European
However, that would have been akin to spitting in the face
of the Mavs franchise just after it had handed him a three-year guaranteed
contract that should make him financially secure for life.
correctly noted, the 25- year-old Israeli guard essentially had no other
Dallas made the decision for Mekel when it brought him in for a
meeting with General Manager Donnie Nelson and the coaching staff to explain why
he would be better off following their program and not playing for Israel this
There was no way back for Mekel after that.
outraged, but despite his disappointment, he ultimately explained that there was
no point in confronting Mekel and demanding that he defy the
Mekel’s announcement was especially frustrating for Shivek as
Israel seemed to be ideally placed to finally make a run deep into the
championships in Slovenia.
Israel will face France, the runners- up from
2011, as well as Germany, Great Britain, Belgium and Ukraine in Group A, which
will be played in Ljubljana.
The top three teams from each group will
progress to the second round, and while the Tony Parker led-France remains the
favorite despite Joakim Noah’s absence, Germany will not have Dirk Nowitzki at
its disposal and Great Britain will have to manage without Loul
Israel will be playing in its 11thstraight EuroBasket tournament,
but it hasn’t progressed past the first round in the event since 2003 when it
finished in seventh place.
Two years ago the national team lost any hope
of a top-three finish and a place in the second round by losing its first three
games in Lithuania to Germany, France and Serbia by an average margin of 17.7
However, there is every reason to believe that Israel can at
least reach the second group stage this year, with a place in the quarterfinals
also within the blue-and-white’s potential.
After missing the past two
championships, Omri Casspi will finally be playing for the national team in the
Israeli basketball fans everywhere, including Shivek, were
counting down the minutes until the Houston Rockets forward would team up with
the Mavs guard to lead the blue-and-white to renewed success, with the likes of
Yogev Ohayon, Lior Eliyahu and Alex Tyus playing supporting
Mekel’s announcement burst that balloon, but it remains to be seen
how much his absence will in fact hurt Israel’s chances next month.
easy to forget now, but Mekel was no more than an afterthought for Shivek in
last summer’s qualifying tournament.
While Shivek has insisted in recent
weeks that Mekel has made significant progress over the past season and that he
plans to use him alongside Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Ohayon, the new Dallas guard spent
much of last year’s campaign on the bench.
Mekel averaged just 2.1 points
and 1.0 assists in eight minutes per game, never playing more than 17 minutes
and not even entering the court for a single second in two of the 10
Shivek clearly didn’t trust Mekel last summer, playing Ohayon
for almost 30 minutes per game. While there’s truth to the coach’s verdict that
the guard is coming off a superb season, I for one can’t help but feel that he
may well have found himself playing a marginal role once more had he not signed
with Dallas and become Israel’s latest NBA beacon of hope.
Either way, it
is now time to move on and at least Mekel didn’t draw out his deliberations in a
manner that would have overshadowed and been a distraction during the national
Israeli basketball will only benefit in the long run
should Mekel become a productive NBA player and his chances of doing so have
surely increased now that he has committed to following every step in the Mavs’
Casspi, who skipped the 2009 EuroBasket to prime himself for his
rookie season in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings, was typically blunt – almost
brash – when he said that Mekel “needs to do what is best for Gal
But he was nevertheless fundamentally correct.
the short-term for an uncertain, yet promising, future is never easy. In this
case, it is the right decision for Gal Mekel and Israeli
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