DALLAS — The first team to reach a verbal agreement with a player when NBA free agency opened late Sunday night were the Los Angeles Clippers.The second team? The Dallas Mavericks.After the Clippers came to terms with Chris Paul on a five-year, $107 million contract, the Mavs reached an agreement with Israeli point guard Gal Mekel on a three-year guaranteed contract for the league minimum.The 25-year old Mekel (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) showed little promise while playing for Wichita State from 2006-08, but returned to Israel after his sophomore season and selected the Israel Premier League MVP in 2011 and 2013. Mekel also averaged 13.3 points and 5.4 assists per game while leading Maccabi Haifa over powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv at the Israeli championship earlier this year.While Mekel is vying for playing time at point guard after the Mavs didn’t tender qualifying offers to point guards Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois — making them unrestricted free agents — so too is Shane Larkin. The 5-foot-11 rookie from Miami knows there is no clear-cut No. 1 point guard on the Mavs’ roster, and he’s hoping it will belong to him.“I’m going to go in there and compete for the starting spot,” Larkin said. “Of course you want to start, you want to get quality minutes, regardless of if you’re a rookie or a veteran.“We’re all going to be going after the same goals.”Larkin, though, believes if a veteran beats him out for the starting job, he’ll turn that into a positive.“If they happen to bring in a veteran that outplays me and he just is that much better than me that he’s getting more minutes, hopefully he can mentor me and just show me the ropes and just help me become a better player,” Larkin said. “And I’m going to support him.“I just want what’s best for the team and I just want to win. If Coach sees that he’s the guy that needs to be in there for us to win and I just need to support him and just learn everything under him from him, then that’s what I’m willing to do because at the end of the day all it’s going to do is help me become a better pro.”Mavs, Howard meet TuesdayA Mavs contingent led by owner Mark Cuban, president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and perennial All-Star Dirk Nowitzki are set to meet Tuesday morning in Los Angeles with Lakers free-agent center Dwight Howard.It’s one of themost important presentations in the Mavs’ off-season.Shane Larkin just wishes he was part of the Mavs’ crew trying to convince Howard to sign a maxed-out four-year, $88 million free-agent contract with Dallas. Larkin grew up in Orlando and used to follow Howard’s career when Howard played for the Magic from 2004-12.“I actually want to be the leading spokesman for the Dwight to Dallas campaign,” Larkin said. “Getting him obviously would be a great thing for the team — one of the most dominant big men to ever play the game, and he’s still dominant.”The Mavs also are getting some help from Raising Cane’s, a Dallas-Fort Worth area restaurant chain that is offering Howard free chicken finger meals for life if he signs with Dallas. The company put up billboards across the Metroplex reading “Bring Dwight To Big D.” Mavs may lose MayoO.J. Mayo is being wooed by Minnesota, Utah, Chicago, Portland, Charlotte, Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Clippers after he opted out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent.Mayo was slated to earn $4.3 million during the 2013-14 season. The Mavs still have Mayo on their radar, but a source said they may move him to the Clippers in a deal involving Eric Bledsoe and Matt Barnes.Among the players from other teams the Mavs are showing free agent interest in aside from Dwight Howard include Philadelphia center Andrew Bynum, Golden State point guard Jarrett Jack and Oklahoma City shooting guard Kevin Martin.Bynum didn’t play at all last season because of problems with both knees after he was acquired by the Sixers last summer from the Lakers.
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @dwainprice