DALLAS -- Rookie Gal Mekel will be the starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks tonight at American Airlines Center when they open preseason play at 7:30 against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Mekel gets the starting nod ahead of Jose Calderon, who will not dress tonight and has been limited in practice since straining his left hamstring last Wednesday. Also, in addition to missing tonight's game, Mavs fans may not see Calderon in action until the Oct. 16 game at Indiana
"We'll probably hold him out a couple more games and just make sure,'' coach Rick Carlisle said. "He played all summer in the Euro (Basket) League and the World Championships.
"Conditioning is not going to be an issue for him, but we've got to make sure his body is right. So that's really important.''
Mekel insists he is motivated and ready to start against the Pelicans.
"I worked hard last week,'' he said. "For me, all summer I prepared all summer. Now it's time to go have fun.''
Carlisle anticipates the offense to flow freely under Mekel, who played effectively for the Mavs during their summer league activity this past July in Las Vegas.
"I expect him to play well and play a solid game,'' Carlisle said. "He's an experienced professional player, this is a different league and different players and those kinds of things, but he’s had a good week so I expect him to do fine.
"We’ve worked on some specific things that he needs to do and tonight is a good chance to kind of test it and see where we’re at. It’s a great opportunity for him.''
In the Mavs' six summer league games, Mekel averaged 9.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and five assists per game. He appeared as though he had command of the offense and finished summer league as one of the Mavs' more productive players.
Mekel, 25, also was the Israeli Super League Most Valuable Player in 2011 and this past season and helped engineer a pair of upsets over Maccabi Tel Aviv.
"He’s been a very successful player in Europe,'' Carlisle said. "Maccabi Tel Aviv has been beaten four times in 40 years and he’s been the best player on two of the teams that beat them -- one was
this past year, so that’s why we signed him, that’s why we like him.
"There’s things that we spent a lot of time with him on that he’s got to improve on and tonight’s a chance to work on those things in real time. We’ll be watching that closely, but at this point it's time to jump off the deep end and see if he can swim.''
Carlisle siad Calderon will probably miss Wednesday's game in Memphis and next Monday's home game against the Orlando Magic. In the meantime, with point guards Devin Harris (toe) and rookie Shane Larkin (ankle) also on the mend, this is a tremendous opportunity for Mekel to get a leg up on the competition.
Thus, Mekel will be in the starting lineup tonight alongside Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Monta Ellis and Samuel Dalembert. Mekel said:
"Of course it's big for me to play with those guys and to learn from them and to focus on the stuff that I'm doing well and try to help the team in every way that I can.''
-- Dwain Price
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