Dallas Mavericks: Summer League
"We specifically grabbed that pick for Ricky Ledo and we feel pretty good about him," president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said.
Ledo, 20, is considered to have big upside, but there is a reason he was available in the second round. He never played for Providence. After moving from high school to high school, the guard sat out his freshman year as a partial academic qualifier before declaring for this year's draft.
"Certainly, he needs to mature and needs time, but we really feel good about him," Nelson said.
It's a much different situation for him now compared to his time at Providence, when he wasn't able to travel with the team.
Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has been quick to note Ledo is still considered a project piece.
"Ledo is a very good prospect at the guard position. He's a very young kid and this is the beginning of a process for him," Carlisle said. "We know he has NBA ability and we like him as a person. We're going to work hard with him."
The team certainly has a decent foundation to work with in Ledo. He has a smooth shooting touch and is pretty steady in regard to his dribble penetration and ability to pass. There have been highs and lows with his performances in the summer league, but he's still trending in the right direction.
There were ups and downs through the summer league, as he averaged 7.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists, but Ledo continues to show promise.
"I like his progression over the last four or five days," Carlisle said. "Each day he was a little more confident, a little more poise, keeping things a little more simple.
"That's going to be the key for him."
It's a key for him because as a second-round pick, he doesn't have a single guarantee of making the roster. He will earn an invite to training camp, but that's all he is assured of.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said about the loss to the Warriors. “We know it was our game to have.”
Now, the Mavs will go up against the second-seeded Chicago Bulls in the consolation bracket of the tournament on Friday night.
It’s weird to think that the Mavs were expecting to rely heavily on second-year players Bernard James and Jae Crowder throughout the duration of the summer league and it appears that they will have neither of them available in the team’s finale.
While James missed his fourth consecutive game and was back in Dallas, the Mavs got somewhat of a scare late in the first quarter of their loss to the Warriors as Crowder sprained his left ankle. While the severity of the injury is still unknown, Mathis didn’t sound overly concerned about the injury.
“I don’t think it’s bad,” Mathis said after the loss. “But it wasn’t worth him trying to continue to play.”
The injury to Crowder was another example of how it’s been a roller coaster-like run for the Mavs in the summer league. They now know they have a few interesting prospects -- mainly Gal Mekel, Ricky Ledo and Jackie Carmichael -- to look at as they prepare for training camp in a few months. Those prospects helped them get very close to beating the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, but they had too many little issues pop up that ultimately derailed their run.
Dallas will now go out and play the best it can in what will be its final game of the tournament.
“I want to finish good and on a high note,” said Justin Dentmon, who led Dallas with 19 points off the bench in Thursday's loss. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and we want to come out and just finish well.”
How it happened: It was an inauspicious start for the Mavs as they turned the ball over on their first possession of the game. Neither team really asserted themselves in the first quarter. It was mainly sloppy basketball as the two teams combined to have a total of 10 turnovers in the period.
Tired legs came into play early as the Mavs were playing their fourth game in five nights, including a back-to-back-to-back set of games. Dallas was settling for perimeter jumpers early, starting the game 2-of-11 from the field.
Jae Crowder turned his left ankle late in the first quarter. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game with a sprained ankle. Going into halftime, the Mavs had to find different scoring options.
A sloppy start to the second half saw Golden State build its lead to as large as eight points. The Warriors’ ball movement had the Mavs scrambling. Running on fumes, Dallas valiantly found ways to battle back into the game and took a 58-53 lead into the final quarter.
The injuries kept coming for the Mavs as backup big man D.J. Stephens suffered a left knee contusion on a block attempt in the fourth quarter and was unable to return to the game.
The Mavs had a 14-point lead, but were unable to hold on to their lead as the Warriors went on a 23-6 run in a span of seven minutes. Jackie Carmichael came up with a key block late in the game, but the Warriors recovered the loose ball and Dwayne Jones slammed the ball in to give them a 77-76 lead with 10.2 seconds left. On the Mavs' next possession, Ricky Ledo drove to the rim but was unable to score a heavily-contested layup.
What it means: With the loss, Dallas moves to the consolation bracket of the summer league championship tournament. The Mavs will take on the second-seeded Chicago Bulls on Friday night at 7 p.m. PT. That game will be the fourth game in four days for the Mavs. It will also mark their LVSL finale.
The status for both Crowder and Stephens remains up in the air.
Mavs player of the game: After scoring 23 points and nine rebounds in the team’s first-round game, Jackie Carmichael responded with 12 points and seven rebounds. More importantly, he protected the paint as much as he could as he recorded seven blocks.
As the Mavs don't have a clear-cut backup option for Dirk Nowitzki, Carmichael is doing everything he can to get an invite to training camp in an attempt to fill that position.
Stat of the night: Unable to secure a lead, Dallas had six turnovers in the fourth quarter that led to 10 Golden State points.
|Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more. |
Crowder made 1-of-5 shots for two points in the opening quarter. Coming into the game, he was averaging 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals in the team's first four games of the summer league.
His status for the remainder of the tournament is unknown.
LAS VEGAS -- The Gal Mekel bandwagon just added one important member: Mavs owner Mark Cuban.
Cuban made a surprise appearance in Las Vegas and observed the team’s 95-89 victory Wednesday in their first-round game of the summer league championship tournament. Citing that he saw the previous three games Dallas had played in, Cuban said he might see a potential gem in the Israeli point guard.
|Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more. |
“I’m excited to see how well he’ll do. He’ll keep on getting better.”
Mekel was pleased to hear the owner's comments.
“That’s great,” the 6-foot-3 guard said with a smile. “When the big boss is saying good stuff, it’s always good to hear.”
Mekel’s performance in the first-round victory was actually a little flat compared to his previous outings. He had nine points and four assists, but he came on strong in the fourth quarter, leaving his imprint on the game on the offensive end of the floor. He worked alongside Jae Crowder and the two of them carved up the Clippers defense with their pick-and-roll game.
“I’m really happy that in the fourth quarter coach trusted me and Jae, and we ran basically the same play all the time and it got us going and good things came.” Mekel said.
In just under 27 minutes of action, the 6-foot-9 forward from Illinois State University started at power forward and contributed 23 points and nine rebounds in the 95-89 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in the first round of the LVSL championship tournament. He had a combined nine points and three rebounds in less than 22 minutes of action in the team’s previous three games.
“I just wanted to come out there and do whatever I could to help the team,” Carmichael said. “I think just attacking the glass and being active opened everything else. That’s my game, trying to stay active. Everything else fell into place.”
Carmichael was actually a late addition to the summer league roster after Jud Dillard departed the team before heading to Las Vegas. He was trying to find his way as the team played their first three games and finally broke through in the fourth game.
In order to advance, the Mavs are going to have to try to quickly correct the issues they had in the preliminary round.
Rebounding has been a problem in the summer league. In the preliminary round, Dewayne Dedmon ranked 89th with 3.7 rebounds per game. Second-year forward Jae Crowder was 59th at 4.3 rebounds per game, and second-round prospect Ricky Ledo ranked 75th overall at 4.0 rebounds. And the Mavs will be without Bernard James, who is in Dallas for personal reasons. He has missed the team’s last two games.
“The other guys have got to step up,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “The guys can’t seem to get our hands on balls on offensive rebounds. On the other end, we’ve got to check out better.”
Josh Akognon, who ranked fifth overall in scoring in the preliminary round with 19.3 points per game, certainly realizes that the team is missing something without James.
“We miss him a lot. He’s gritty and tough,” Akognon said. “He won’t let anyone slack. If someone isn’t helping, he’ll let you know. He’s the sergeant.”
In addition to the rebounding issue, the Mavs also want to make the most of their opportunities at the free throw line. Dallas left 11 free points off the board out of their 30 attempts against the D-League Select team on Tuesday night. Dallas shot .630 percent from the line in the preliminary round.
With the helter skelter style that the summer league presents, foul calls and subsequent trips to the free throw line come early and often. Learning from their mistakes at the line Tuesday was clearly a point of emphasis during the team’s shootaround Wednesday, as the team could not continue practice until Crowder made a free throw. The team would step away to the side and stayed quiet as Crowder lined up his free throws. The coaching staff would try to distract him at the last possible second.
As the leader of the team, the staff wanted to put Crowder in a pressure situation that could prepare him for those end-of-game situations. If he missed the free throws, the team would have to run full-court sprints.
To his credit, Crowder hit the clutch free throws. Like the rebounding, Crowder and the rest of the Mavs will have to transfer their work on the practice court to game time.
With the tournament structure, the team can’t look back at the losses. They must focus on the game that is directly in front of them.
“These guys all know that we’re very close,” Mathis said. “We’ve just got to keep sharing the ball and doing the things that we need to do to get better to get the win, move on an advance.”
How it happened: With 77 seconds left and the Mavs trailing, 75-72, Jae Crowder was fouled and missed both free throws. Dallas didn't have enough left after that to make a comeback.
After two sluggish performances early in their previous games, the Mavs played with more urgency and energy. They actually had their first double-digit lead in Las Vegas. Also, for the first time in the summer league, Dallas was able to work well in transition.
Gal Mekel once again set the tempo for Dallas on offense. Mekel carved up the D-League team with his dribble penetration and found the open man time after time. Mekel had seven assists in the first quarter and finished with a game-high nine assists.
Dallas lost control of its offense in the third quarter as the D-League Select team cranked up the intensity. The D-Leaguers regained the lead with less than six minutes left in the third. Both teams found themselves in a back-and-forth battle for the remainder of the game.
Foul trouble also plagued the Mavs in the second half. They could not stop the D-League team's dribble penetration, nor could they avoid giving up second-chance opportunities. A 3-point basket with under five minutes left gave the D-Leaguers a six-point lead, one they wouldn't relinquish.
Dallas again played without second-year center Bernard James. Team officials said James flew back to Dallas on Tuesday afternoon for personal reasons. He was held out of Sunday's game against Charlotte because of illness. The center's availability for the rest of the summer league appears to be in doubt.
What it means: The Mavs finished the preliminary stage of the summer league with a 1-2 record. The single-elimination tournament begins Wednesday. The final will be Monday. All teams will be seeded 1-22 in the bracket-style event. Teams seeded 1-10 will have a first-round bye, and teams seeded 11-22 will open the tournament Wednesday, including the Mavs.
Mavs player of the game: Mekel continues to gain momentum. His fingerprints were all over Tuesday's game on the offensive end, especially early. That said, the Select Team did a solid job of taking him out of the game later. His nine assists marked the second-highest total in this year's summer league. Diante Garrett of the Phoenix Suns had 13 assists earlier in the day.
Stat of the night: Free throws killed the Mavs in the fourth quarter. They went 10-of-17 from the line in the final period. They were 19-of-30 for the game.
LAS VEGAS -- Gal Mekel has been a standout performer for the Mavs during summer league play. He’s one of only five players in the league to average at least 12.0 points and 4.0 assists. While making the transition back to America and the NBA game, the 6-foot-3 point guard has been impressive throughout the process.
Second-year swingman Jae Crowder has been one of Mekel’s biggest supporters on the summer league squad. As people are still trying to figure out the kind of player the Israeli guard is, Crowder confidently offered his own player comparison: Ricky Rubio.
“You see him do the trick passes like Rubio,” Crowder said. “He can pass with both hands. That’s very rare amongs point guards around the league.”
Through two games, flashes of Rubio’s game are there with the dynamic passing. Mekel, 25, has shown some unique flair, creativity and improvisation on offense. His court vision is quite impressive for a player who is still trying to adjust to a new level.
“Rubio is a great player,” Mekel said when asked about the comparison to the Spanish guard. “I played against him a few times back in Europe. It’s a nice compliment. Of course I want to be successful like him in this league.”
Mekel has made the most of his opportunity in Las Vegas. Mekel has been able to make an even bigger impact with first-round draft pick Shane Larkin suffering a fracture in his right ankle.
“It’s a great opportunity. He was going to have a great opportunity whether Shane played with us or not,” Mavs summer league coach Monte Mathis said. “Now it’s even more so because there’s even more minutes out there.
“We’re really depending on him to be a leader out there and call things out there and get us lined up and help everybody else out.”
While the buzz has centered around the offensive end of the floor, Mathis has been impressed with Mekel’s creativity on the defensive end.
“He’s a very smart and crafty defender,” Mathis continued. “He’s not the fastest guy in the game or the quickest guy in the gym, but he really uses his smarts for his angles on defense.”
Mekel’s ability to read those angles and anticipate the opponent’s next move does give him the ability to mask whatever he is lacking on the defensive end of the floor.
The young point guard floated an impressive lob pass to finish off the team’s shootaround on Tuesday afternoon and that drew the roar of approval of his teammates. It certainly had Rubio-esque quality to it.
“I’m Gal Mekel and I’m trying to help my team,” Mekel said. “That’s it.”
While he appreciates the comparison to Rubio, the guard is working on making his own name in Las Vegas.
1. Jae Crowder remains an enigma: Coming into the summer league, Crowder’s weight loss and how that may help his ability to play multiple positions for the Mavs was the story. Through two games, there are two key components to his game that remain a mystery: his true position and the role he plays.
So far, Crowder really hasn’t stood out in any department. He’s shooting 46 percent from the field, but he’s shooting just 23.1 percent from 3-point range. His overall shooting from the field is actually better than it was last summer, but his long-range shooting is drastically worse. He’ll have to finish strong in Vegas in order to use that as a springboard when the team reconvenes for training camp.
2. Bernard James is a key component to the squad’s success: The Mavs looked like a completely different team in their loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. That was mainly because of their inability to control the paint. James missed that game due to illness. Without their anchor in the middle, the Mavs had no answer for Charlotte’s size.
While he may still be a project on the offensive end of the floor, James has the ability to control the game on the defensive end with his energy and mobility. With the Mavs lacking depth at center, the second year player's role may be larger in 2013-2014.
3. Ricky Ledo will be a project: After not playing organized basketball for over a year, Ricky Ledo has manned the role of the first scoring option off the bench in Vegas. One thing is clear: the talent is there. The rare combination of size, athleticism, shooting and ball-handling makes him such an intriguing prospect.
It’s been an up-and-down run for Ledo in the first portion of the summer league. It’s apparent that he plays a lot better when he’s under control. The Mavs clearly like him and believe he can be an asset. It looks like he will be a prime candidate to gain seasoning in Frisco with the Texas Legends, the team’s D-League affiliate, during the regular season.
4. Outside of the go-to names, there might not be a lot of depth there: Justin Dentmon scored a team-high 18 points in the team’s loss to Charlotte, but it appears he’s behind Gal Mekel, Ledo and Josh Akognon on the depth chart. (The go-to names would consist of Crowder, James, Mekel, Ledo and Akognon.)
The Mavs have an obvious need for big men. Unfortunately, none of the players out of the group of Dewayne Dedmon, Christian Watford, Jackie Carmichael and Hamady N'Diaye have shown consistency. It’s possible that any or all members of that quartet could be a training camp invitee, but that’s likely the end of the road for them.
5. Gal Mekel has some serious potential: Mekel has led the team in assists in both games and has done an impressive job of controlling the offense. His numbers could be better as he’s set up his teammates in scoring positions, but they have been unable to finish off those possessions. Mekel has also done a nice job of prodding the defense with dribble penetration.
Shooting will be the thing he needs to address between now and training camp. It takes too much time and effort for him to get his shot up from the perimeter. He will need to tighten that up or opponents will stay back on him, taking away his ability to drive into the lane. It would be wise of him to spend time with Jose Calderon, a gifted shooter at the point guard position, and see if he can help him in that department.
Last season, he led Maccabi Haifa to an Israeli League Championship en route to claiming his second Most Valuable Player award. Mekel averaged 13.3 points, 5.4 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 32.3 minutes in 30 games while shooting .525 from the field and .779 from the free throw line.
His signing with the Mavs is historic. The Petah Tikva, Israel native is just the second Israeli-born player to sign with an NBA team. He follows in the footsteps of veteran forward Omri Casspi.
Mekel’s game was pretty much a mystery coming into Vegas. Since his arrival, he’s shown some nice ability as a potential backup point guard for the Mavs.
Here’s some comments from Mekel from the summer league:
Q: For those who are unfamiliar with you, how would you describe your game?
Mekel: I’m a true point guard. I like to get everybody involved and make my teammates better. I want to help my team in every aspect of the game in order to help the team win.
Q: With the interest you generated around the league, why did you ultimately choose Dallas as the place to start your NBA career?
Mekel: I know that I had some pretty good interest around the league. When I came to Dallas to talk to them, I knew it was a great club and organization. It has great people in it, and that’s really important to me. For me, it’s the best choice.
Q: What ultimately led to making the choice to coming back home and pursuing your NBA career?
Mekel: For every basketball player, the dream is to play in the NBA. I had a very good season last year. Last summer when I worked out with Utah, I saw that the dream was possible. I came this summer to the states with a feeling that I could do it. When the opportunity came, it’s something you don’t want to miss. I’m going to give it everything I can to make this dream come true.
Q: What is one aspect of your game that you feel needs the most help right away?
Mekel: We’re working on the 3-point shot. That’s one of the biggest adjustments for me, the 3-point line. I have to bring more power to the shot. We’re working on that. I was happy because (coach Rick Carlisle) said I’m already improving, so we’re going to keep it going.
Q: Even with the success overseas, do you have a lot to prove over here?
Mekel: Of course. I have to adjust to the American game. It’s a different game with different speeds. Guys are definitely much more athletic. I’m willing to learn and I want to learn. I’ll definitely have to adjust, but I’m looking forward to learning.
Q: How does it feel to have the chance to show what you can do in the NBA?
Mekel: It’s a big thing. It’s the first thing for me to gain confidence and trust from the coaches and the teammates. I’m looking forward to playing good in the summer league and helping the team.
How it happened: The Mavs struggled to get their jumper going to start the game. They missed seven of their first eight shots and fell into an early seven-point hole. The shooting didn't really get any better as they found themselves in another 14-point hole with less than two minutes in the first quarter. They ended up shooting 4-of-18 in the first quarter.
Dallas fell behind by as many as 25 points in the game. The Mavs made a solid push in the second half to get within six points with less than six minutes left, but their comeback effort fell short.
Whether it was tired legs or a bad shooting night, it was tough sledding for the Mavs from the perimeter as they ended up missing their first 11 shots from long range. They ended the game 8-of-28 from 3-point range.
An hour before tip-off, it was announced that second-year center Bernard James would miss the game because of illness. That certainly put the Mavs in a bind with the Bobcats' size. Charlotte's first-round pick Cody Zeller was able to have his way with rebounds as Dallas didn't have its man in the middle. He finished with a double-double with game-highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds.
Jae Crowder continued to struggle with his long-range shooting. By going 2-of-7 against Charlotte, he's now 3-of-13 from 3-point range in two summer league games.
Josh Akognon talked about the gift and the curse when it came to shooting after the team's first game. He missed his first four shots but ended up going 6-of-14 from the field to end with 16 points.
What it means: By splitting the first two games, Dallas is in mediocre shape in the preliminary stages of the league in Vegas. After the first round, the top 10 teams will receive a first-round bye in the new tournament format that crowns a champion in Vegas. Dallas' final game in the first stage will be Tuesday against the NBA D-League Select squad.
Mavs player of the game: Gal Mekel had to work harder in Game 2, but he continued to show that he has the ability to control the game from the point guard position. He has been consistent as a floor general for the Mavs in both games. The coaching staff won't like the turnovers, but he's still adjusting to the different skill level that the NBA game presents.
Stat of the night: The Mavs certainly made things harder for themselves as they tried to come back by committing a lot of careless turnovers. Their 20 turnovers led to 22 Bobcats points.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett at Mavericks media day to discuss his expectations for the upcoming season.
Play Podcast Mark Cuban joins Galloway and Company to discuss the Mavericks' new GM Gersson Rosas and much more.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mark Cuban's comments from Las Vegas about the Mavericks' offseason, how he sees the team without Dwight Howard and more.
Play Podcast Marc Stein joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why the Mavericks didn't want to match Cleveland's offer to Andrew Bynum, what's next for the Mavs and the possibility of Dirk Nowitzki ending his career elsewhere.
Play Podcast Jeff Platt fires quick-hitters at Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon in the weekly sports standoff about Andrew Bynum, the Mavs' current backcourt, a potential Nelson Cruz suspension and more.
Play Podcast ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Tim MacMahon to discuss why she thinks Andrew Bynum got a bad rap in Los Angeles and how he would fit in with the Mavericks.
Play Podcast Buy, sell or hold? If Dwight Howard goes to another team, what are the Mavs' options? The guys take a look at a list of potential fallback options.
Play Podcast ESPN's Marc Stein joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the latest news on the Mavericks' meeting with Dwight Howard.