Maccabi Tel Aviv guard Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: UDI ZITIAT)
Gal Mekel became the latest casualty in new head coach Neven Spahija’s roster cleanup on Tuesday, with Maccabi Tel Aviv announcing he will not be part of the team next season.
Spahija informed Mekel of the news in a meeting on Monday night. The Croatian coach said in his unveiling press conference on Sunday that he wants as few players as possible to continue from last season, explaining that a fresh start is required after recent disappointing campaigns.
Captain Guy Pnini was told he will not be handed a new deal over the weekend, ending his eight-year stay at the club. Pnini signed a two-year deal with Hapoel Holon on Monday. Any other players without a guaranteed contract for 2017/18, apart from Yogev Ohayon, were also told they will not continue.
Mekel is among a group of players, including Devin Smith and Sylven Landesberg, who are under contract for next season, making his departure far more complicated and costly for Maccabi. Mekel has two more years remaining on his contract and Maccabi is hoping to find a team willing to take him on board while soaking up at least part of his hefty salary.
“Maccabi thanks Gal, a real professional, the team’s point guard in the past two years, for his contribution and great and professional attitude in every aspect of the game,” read a club statement.
Mekel thought he had found a home in Maccabi when he returned to his boyhood club on a three-and-a-half year deal in January 2016, joining his eighth different team in five years.
Mekel’s career has been on a downward spiral since he was cut by the Dallas Mavericks, which had made him the second Israeli to play in the NBA after Omri Casspi in the summer of 2013.
Mekel entered 2014/15 with two guaranteed years still remaining on his contract with the Mavs. But he ended up being cut after playing a total of 31 games in his rookie season.
He received a non-guaranteed deal from the New Orleans Pelicans, but appeared in only four games before being released in December 2014.
Mekel went on to play for Russian side BC Nizhny Novgorod for four months and at Red Star Belgrade in Serbia for just three months before returning to Maccabi in January 2016.
Despite Maccabi’s announcement on Tuesday, Mekel, who averaged 4.5 points and 3.3 assists in 24 Euroleague games last season, is not going away quietly, with the club and player yet to agree the financial terms of his departure.
“Gal Mekel has a standing contract for the 2017/18 season with Maccabi and he’ll give his maximum to fight for his position on the team,” Mekel’s agent Misko Raznatovic tweeted on Tuesday.