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Can Israel’s Gal Mekel make his point in Dallas?

by Hillel Kuttler, JTA

June 26, 2014 | 1:56 pm

<em>Gal Mekel, shown on defense during a preseason game in October 2013, is hoping to become a starter for Dallas following knee surgery that curtailed his rookie season. Photo by Hillel Kuttler/JTA</em>

Gal Mekel, shown on defense during a preseason game in October 2013, is hoping to become a starter for Dallas following knee surgery that curtailed his rookie season. Photo by Hillel Kuttler/JTA

Basketball analysts viewed the trade Wednesday between the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks as preliminary maneuvering by both teams wooing the two darlings in this summer’s NBA free-agent class, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

But a far-below-the-radar beneficiary may be Israeli point guard Gal Mekel.

The evening before the NBA Draft, Dallas shipped out two point guards: starter Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin, a first-round draft pick in 2013 who missed nearly half his rookie year with a broken ankle.

Mekel, a Tel Avivian who became the second Israeli to reach the NBA when he signed with Dallas a year ago, also endured an injury that ruined his first season. The 6-foot-3 performer played 31 games before tearing the meniscus in his right knee and undergoing surgery that ended his season with the Mavericks. He returned to play four games in two stints with their Developmental League team.

In the trade, the Mavericks also sent out center Samuel Dalembert, the only player to have been an NBA teammate of both Mekel and Omri Casspi, Israel’s first player in the league.

In return, they received Tyson Chandler, a defensive stalwart and one of the keys to Dallas winning the 2011 NBA championship before signing with the Knicks as a free agent, and troubled point guard Raymond Felton.

Felton would seem an obvious replacement for Calderon as the starter in Dallas, although he is hardly in Calderon’s class as a floor general, leader or shooter. That is, unless free agent Devin Harris, who plays both guard positions, re-signs with Dallas. Like Larkin and Mekel, Harris missed much of the season with an injury.

So where does all this backcourt movement leave Mekel? He’s reportedly back in good health and due to play in the Las Vegas summer league. The starting position appears to be wide open for a player who guided Maccabi Haifa to the Israeli Basketball Super League championship in the 2012-13 season. Mekel’s guaranteed contract runs two more years.

Four months until the regular season tips off.

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