DALLAS --While it's only a preseason game when the Dallas Mavericks entertain the New Orleans Pelicans at 7:30 tonight at American Airlines Center, it'll be the first time point guard Gal Mekel has played in an NBA game.
And the rookie from Israel is in the starting lineup.
Mekel, however, doesn't seem overwhelmed by the enormalty of the situation.
"Of course it's exciting, especially in the first game,'' Mekel said after Monday morning's shoot around at the AAC. "But I don't have to look at it like it's something huge and be nervous.
"It's basketball. Like every other game, have fun and try to help the team.''
It may be basketball, but Mekel may quickly find out that a constant diet of playing in the NBA is much more different than a constant diet of playing in Italy and Israel, which is where he's spent the balance of his "pro'' career.
Still, the way Mekel looks at it, he was the Most Valuable Player of the Israeli Super League in 2011 and this past season, so what's nerves got to do with it?
Asked if the Israeli League compared somewhere inbetween the National Basketball Development League and the NBA, coach Rick Carlisle admitted he had no idea.
"It’s a good league,'' Carlisle said. "The guys playing in that league are a lot more experienced than the D-league players.
"But I can’t speak to the exact ability levels and athletic levels and things like that.''
Mekel will discover those things for himself tonight when he starts against the Pelicans for Jose Calderon, who will likely miss the first three preseason games with a strained left hamstring. Devin Harris (toe surgery) and rookie Shane Larkin (ankle sugery) would have also been candidates to start tonight in Calderon's place, but they're also among the walking wounded.
That left the task to Mekel, a 25-year old who averaged 9.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and five assists in six summer league games for the Mavs this past July in Las Vegas.
"For Mekel this is a great opportunity,'' Carlisle said. "He's stepping out there with four guys who have played a lot of games in this league, so we’ll see what’s what.
"He’ll be nervous tonight, which everybody will the first time they step into an NBA game. But that’s good. That means he’s ready to play.''
-- Dwain Price
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