Gal Mekel watched with keen interest as the Dallas Mavericks ventured out over the summer and acquired point guards Raymond Felton and Jameer Nelson and wondered where he fit into the team’s long-term equation.
The Mavs also re-signed free agent point guard Devin Harris, which left Mekel as the fourth point guard behind three veterans who have a total of 28 years of NBA experience.
Or did it?
Mekel once again showed some much-needed swagger Saturday night during the Mavs’ 98-93 preseason loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Although the Mavs fell to 2-3 during preseason play after splitting their brief two-game road trip, Mekel felt as though he’s done enough to commission for some minutes in the team’s regular rotation.
“That was my goal from the first day in training camp,” said Mekel, after dropping 19 points and nine assists on the Pacers in 43 grueling minutes. “I came in after a great summer with the national team, feeling good.”
“All my career I’m respecting everybody, but I’m not afraid of anyone, I’m coming to compete. We have great guys on our team and we have a lot of depth, but my job is to come and play hard every day in practice and games, and I’m happy that so far I’m having a good preseason.”
The Mavs rested starters Dirk Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, Tyson Chandler, Monta Ellis and Nelson — along with Harris — against the Pacers. Thus, this was an excellent chance for players like Mekel to get the undivided attention of coach Rick Carlisle.
“Mekel is playing great, he’s really playing extremely well,” Carlisle said. [He’s got] a really good command of the game.
“He got a little tired at the end — 42 minutes is a lot for a guy that’s been playing 12 or less most of the time. But he did a great job.”
A basket in traffic by Mekel knotted the game at 93-93 with just 37.2 seconds left after the Mavs had blown a 14-point lead. But Pacers guard Donald Sloan, a former Texas A&M standout, tallied four points down the stretch. Mekel missed a short jumper during that stretch, and the Mavs flew back to North Texas to prepare for Monday’s home game against Memphis.
In addition to Mekel, the Mavs rolled out Richard Jefferson, Greg Smith, Jae Crowder and Ivan Johnson as their starters. For a long while, that group, along with some solid bench play from Brandan Wright, Charlie Villanueva and Al-Farouq Aminu, controlled the game against the Pacers.
The Mavs actually led 82-68 with 7:49 left before wilting down the stretch.
“Indiana is a good team,” Carlisle said. “But I thought overall we did some good things.”
Jefferson finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and Aminu collected a double-double with 11 points and 12 boards. In addition, Wright only played the first half and collected 10 points in 14 minutes, while Villanueva had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
“The first three quarters were very good, the fourth quarter we didn’t do a good job defensively,” Carlisle said. “The shot-making wasn’t there.”
Mekel, though, showed that he is seriously challenging for some rotation minutes at point guard.