For the first time in the history of the National Basketball Association, two Israelis will take the court in a regular-season game. Omri Casspi of the Houston Rockets and Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks face-off on Friday night.
Casspi, 25, made history in 2009, becoming the first Israeli to play in the NBA. He was drafted 23rd overall by the Sacramento Kings before averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in his rookie campaign. In June of 2011 he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but never found his groove like he did in Sacramento. This past offseason, he signed a two-year deal with the Rockets with the hope that a fresh start will translate into more success on the court.
Mekel, also 25, signed with the Mavericks as a free agent this summer. He played two years of basketball at Wichita State before heading back to Israel to play with Maccabi Haifa. The 6′ 3″ guard won his second Israeli League MVP last season, when he averaged 13.3 points and 5.4 assists for his championship team.
The Israeli duo were teammates for a large portion of their basketball careers. They played on the Israeli Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 squads together as well as combining forces on the Maccabi Tel Aviv junior team.
The highly anticipated matchup has drawn Israeli media to Houston. The game will also broadcast live in Israel, with tip-off at 3:00 a.m.