(photo credit: Uzi Zitiat)
Israel coach Arik Shivek blasted the Dallas Mavericks on Monday for putting Gal Mekel in an “impossible situation” that forced him to pull out of September’s EuroBasket tournament.
Mekel notified Shivek on Sunday that he has decided not to play for the blue-and-white in the European Championships in order to focus on his preparations for his rookie season in the NBA with the Mavs.
Shivek believes Mekel was left no choice by the Dallas management.
“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 said.
“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.”
Shivek said he was willing to give Mekel an extra 10 days to rest, but admitted that at no stage was he able to convince the Mavs staff to allow their new guard to spend over a month with the national team.
“Gal was supposed to play against Tony Parker, not play golf in Israel,” he said. “I know Gal and this was difficult for him. I know what led him to this decision.”
Mekel’s decision seems to follow in the footsteps of Omri Casspi, who chose to sit out the 2009 EuroBasket tournament after being selected in the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.
Despite his obvious disappointment that his good friend will not be traveling with him to Slovenia, Casspi naturally defended Mekel’s decision.
“I spoke to Gal a few times in the past few days and I told him that as a rookie he needs to prove himself from the first moment,” Casspi said. “He must make the most of every opportunity he gets, definitely in his rookie season. My decision to skip the EuroBasket tournament in 2009 certainly helped me a lot and I think this will also help Gal. He needs to do what is best for Gal Mekel and the national team will benefit from it in the future.”
After impressively guiding Maccabi Haifa to the BSL championship last month, Mekel was handed a three-year deal by the Mavs. The 25-year-old guard turned heads with his performance in the NBA Summer League, leading the team in minutes over the six games, while registering 9.7 points and 5.0 assists.
“I can’t describe in words what I’ve experienced over the last month-and-a-half,” Mekel said upon his arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday morning.
“I left for the US two days after winning the championship with Haifa and I’m coming back with a contract at Dallas and following a very good performance in the Summer League. I couldn’t have asked for more. This is something I have always dreamed of.”
Despite Shivek’s claims, Mekel took full responsibility for his decision not to play for Israel this summer.
“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 said. “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.”