Sinai says: Agonizing NBA waiting game continues for free-agent Mekel

The 26-year-old Israeli point guard is of course doing his best to remain in shape with his personal trainer and continues to practice as hard as ever.

NBA free-agent Gal Mekel  (photo credit: TNS)
NBA free-agent Gal Mekel
(photo credit: TNS)
Gal Mekel is killing time and working out.
There really isn’t much else he can do at the moment.
The 26-year-old Israeli point guard is of course doing his best to remain in shape with his personal trainer and continues to practice as hard as ever.
But the bottom line is that he is sitting around looking at the phone, and hoping it will ring with an NBA team on the other side of the line.
It all looked so promising for Mekel.
In fact, on more than one occasion in recent months everything seemed to be in place for the Israeli point guard to shine on the NBA stage.
However, time and again, his hopes disintegrated in heartbreaking fashion.
Mekel entered the season with two guaranteed years still remaining on his contract with the Dallas Mavericks and was in a confident mood after impressing when given the opportunity in the preseason.
However, the addition of J.J. Barea to a roster which already included point guards Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and Raymond Felton, meant he was the odd man out.
The Mavs were full of praise for Mekel after releasing him, something which would become a recurring theme over recent months.
“The future is very bright for Gal,” said Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson at the time. “He’s got a big upside and is developing ahead of schedule. We wouldn’t have even considered this move if it weren’t for the unlikely scenario where a player of J.J.’s caliber was available.”
Mekel, who only took part in a total of 31 games in his rookie season in large part due to the knee surgery he underwent in mid-January, remained upbeat nevertheless.
He received the $1.76 million Dallas owed him over the next two seasons after clearing waivers and knew he had several suitors in the league.
After less than a week as a free agent, Mekel looked to have found a new home in the NBA in Indiana.
However, a procedural delay in securing a new visa thwarted his expected move to the depleted Pacers.
Mekel had selected Indiana over the injury-hit Oklahoma City as he believed he would receive a bigger role on the team, but ended up empty-handed.
Mekel ultimately spent over a month as a free agent. He practiced with his personal trainer in Florida in the meantime, before securing a deal with the New Orleans Pelicans at the beginning of December.
New Orleans seemed like an ideal landing spot. The path for him to establish himself as the Pelicans’ main backup point guard behind starter Jrue Holiday looked to be open, with New Orleans widely considered to be one of the rising forces in the league, led by All-Star Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans signed him to a twoyear, non-guaranteed contract. It included an option which allowed New Orleans to release Mekel before January 10 without compensation.
That hardly seemed likely at the time, but just two weeks after joining New Orleans, Mekel found himself on the waiver wire once more.
He played just four games for the team, averaging 1.5 points and 3.3 assists over 10.9 minutes of action.
New Orleans head coach Monty Williams was, predictably, extremely complimentary of Mekel’s capabilities.
“We thought he did a good job, [but] there are some particulars financially that I am not going to discuss,” he explained. “We like (Mekel) a lot. That doesn’t mean we won’t bring him back. But at this point we felt like we were going to go in a different direction. He was a positive for our team.”
That was almost two weeks ago and Mekel remains without a team.
He even considered returning to Israel or Europe, negotiating with both Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem among others. Jerusalem owner Ori Allon even met with the Israeli guard in New York and financial terms were discussed with Maccabi.
But after much deliberation, he eventually decided to continue and chase the NBA dream.
“After I was released by New Orleans I received several offers from Europe and Israel,” Mekel said in a statement. “I wanted to give them the respect they deserve and listen to them all...It is no secret that I really want to remain in the NBA and I believe with all my heart that I can succeed in this league. But I also really want to play, lead and realize my potential.”
Mekel went on to explain that he considered all the offers and the options he faced, and after receiving a thorough analysis of the NBA market, he decided he wanted to continue and wait for an offer from the best basketball association in the world.
“In the past couple of months I was very unlucky on three or four different occasions, but I still believe that everything can work out,” he added. “In such an unpredictable league such a chance may or may not arrive, but I don’t think I will be able to live with myself knowing that I gave up a big opportunity because of money and a lack of patience.”
Mekel also attacked the reports that claimed he was asking for $2.5 million for two-and-a-half years from Maccabi, insisting that they were aimed to display him in a negative manner.
Mekel’s best option to return to the NBA will likely be through a 10-day contract, which teams will be able to offer to players from next Monday. Mekel would have three games to impress in the hope of being signed to another 10-day contract and ultimately until the end of the season.
It is hardly an ideal situation, but considering Mekel’s current position, it is the best he can hope for.
It is hard to fault his decision to pursue his NBA dream. After all, he will always be able to return to Israel.
For the time being, however, all he can do is optimistically wait.
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