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November 8, 2013

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PAGE 14N lsraelis Omri Casspi, left, of the Houston Rockets and Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks sharing a friendly moment at the Toyota Center in Houston before their teams squared off in a preseason game, Oct. 21, 2013. By Hillel Kuttler HOUSTON (JTA)--Midway through the first quarter, Omri Casspi entered the preseason game between his Houston Rockets and the Dal- las Mavericks. A minute later, the buzzer sounded summon- ing Mavs rookie guard Gal Mekel into the Oct. 21 contest. Casspi took his first shot, a three-pointer that missed. On the en.suing possession, Mekel scoreffon a driving layup. Order was following form: Fouryears ago, Casspi became the first Israeli to play in the National Basketball Associa- tion. Andwith the new season tipping off this week, MekeI will become the second. A reprise will occur im- minently-this time when it counts in the standings --when the Mavericks return to Houston's Toyota Center on Friday night in the first of four regular-season meetings between the Southwest Divi- sion clubs. There's no telling if those games will feature the chant- ing, adoring, Israeli flag- waving fans who punctuated Casspi's NBA tenure early on or whether the adulation be- stowed upon an Israeli pro in America has fizzled out before Mekel can feel the love, too. The players, both 25, say they expect the atmosphere Obama From page 1A administration regards move- ment toward a Senate vote as the kind of action that would alienate Iran. The fate of the bill is cur- meeting last weekas a close consultation with Congress. "Congress has been an important partner in our ef- forts thus far," Hayden said in an email last Friday. "We will continue our close consulta- rentlyinthehandsofSen.Tim tion, as we have in the past, Johnson (D-S.D.), chairman so that any congressional of the Senate Banking Com- action is aligned with our mittee. A committee official negotiating strategy as we said last Friday that Johnson move forward." had yet to reach a decision on Participapts said it was not whetherandwhentobringthe clear after the meeting what bill up for debate and a vote. the consensuswasamongthe But Johnson previously had told the Obama administra- tion that he could not delay a committee vote beyond the end of October. Administra- tion officials want it delayed at least until after the next set of talks in mid-November. Caitlin Hayden, an NSC spokeswoman, described the staffers, who advise lawmak- ers and play a critical role in advancing and shaping legislation. They described two competing narratives: one in which increased sanc- tions would help keep Iran at the negotiating table and the other in which they drive Iran away. HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 8, 2013 With Mekel's arrival, Casspi has Israeli company on the NBA court four NBA seasons and Mekel is a rookie, so they both have much to prove playing as reserves for talented teams in the strong Western Con- ference. With Houston, Casspi is light years from his previous clubs, the lowly Kingsand the rebuilding, post-LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers. The Rockets are loaded, featuring new center Dwight Howard, forwards James Harden and Chandler Parsons, and point guard Jeremy Lin. Mekel's accomplished teammates include forward Dirk Nowitzki, who led Dallas to an NBA title three seasons ago, along with frontcourt partner Shawn Marion and guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis. Helping the Israelis fit in is the extraordinary diversity of both clubs, with players hailing from Germany, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Haiti, Turkey and Brazil--to say nothing of Lin, the son of Taiwanese immi- grants who ignited "Linsan- ity" during his brief tenure with the New York Knicks two seasons ago. Mavs center Samuel Dalem- bert, a Haitian, stands out even beyond his 6- foot-11- inch frame. Having played with Casspi on the Kings, he is the only one'to count both Israelis as teammates. to resemble the former. Whiie their in-season games will likely draw plenty of Israeli media, JTA spoke exclusively last week with Casspi and Mekel. "it's a big thing, I think, for such a small country to have two [NBA] players. It's something unique," Mekel Said at the Mavericks' down- town hotel here as Casspf sat across from him. "I saw the excitement when Omri came into the league, and I'm really looking forward to experienc- ing that, so hopefully we'll bring pride." Casspi-acknowledged that he "got excited" upon seeing that Dallas vas Houston's second opponent this season. At 6 feet 9 inches, Casspi towers six inches above Mekel, so they won't be matched against each other unless there is a defensive switch. Their coaches and teammates note similar characteristics in both players--primarily their competitiveness, commit- ment to improve, determina- tion ondefense and team-first mentality. Like nearly every NBA player, they possess basketball pedigree--Casspi as a 2009 first-round draft choice of the Sacramento Kings, Mekel as the two-time Most Valuable Player in the Israel Basketball League. But Casspi's output has declined steadily in his on this new sanctions bill if Iran quickly takes a number of concrete and fully verifiable steps," he said at an event organized by the Jewish Com- munity Relations Council of Greater Washington. "First, Iran must freeze all enrichment, as demanded repeatedly by the U.N. Secu- rity Council. It must stop the installation of new centrifuges and halt construction of the Arak heavy water reactor, which could produce pluto- nium. It must agree to remove all of its 20 percent enriched uranium from the country. Finally, it must allow compre- hensive nuclear inspections." Israeli Prime Minister Ben- Netanyahu favors en- hanced sanctions, something his strategic affairs minister, Yuval Steinitz, emphasized in meetings with officials on Oct. 23, when he led the Israeli team in the semi-annual U.S.- Israel strategic dialogue. "The more you increase the pressure, the greater the chances," Steinitz told reporters. "The Iranians are on the boards--why relieve pressure now?" "I'm making history," a laughing Dalembert said. Casspi already has found a kindred spirit in Lin. On the team bus, on the road and at Sabbath dinner at Casspi's apartment, the two have talked about their ethnic pressures and struggles in establishing themselves in the NBA. Lin says he and Casspi have gone through "some of the same things." With the Rockets, coach Kevin McHale has shifted Casspi into the stretch-4 posi- tion: a power forward capable of rebounding and reliably draining shots while playing away from the basket. It's a job McHale, an authority on forward play by virtue of his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics, believes Casspi is equipped for because "he's big and is not afraid to bang." In fact, McHale says he has eyed Casspi ever since the Israeli was an 18-year-old on his national team. "He was aggressive, he moved, he had a good overall feel," McHale said in his office. "I thought he had a really good rookie year, a really good start to his NBA career. For the last couple of years, I didn't think it worked for him." When Casspi became a free agent, McHale said he and general manager Daryl Morey went after him. "Omri fits in with our style and, hopefully, our style fits him. it has so far," McHale said. "I really like him. I think he's a guy who'll help us." Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson called Casspi "the surprise of our team" for whom the position change is making all the difference'. "When he plays the 4, he shows what .he can do," Samp- son said. "When he plays the 3 [small forward[, he shows what he can't do." Mekel has adapted, too, following injuries to guards Shane Larkin, also a rookie, and Devin Harris that thrust opportunity upon him. His learning curve was steep early in training camp, said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. He was mistake-prone on of- fense--going airborne before deciding whether to shoot or pass, trying to split defenders he couldn't beat and turning over the ball often, a huge no-no for a point guard. But in four starts, Carlisle said, Mekel "made progress each and every game." "He's knowledgeable, rug- 57962 34189 who served with courage and 8 6 2 3 4 sacrifice in the many wars of the United States, will be offered. Those serving in our 9 2 6 4 5 military deserve the recogni- tionoftheirserviceandtheir 7 8 5 1 6 willingness to fight for the ideals that make our country the beacon for freedom in 4 1 3 9 7 the world. "Beth Am is located at 3899 1 9 8 5 3 Sand Lake Road in Longwood, Seminole County. A map with directions to Beth Am can 6 5 7 2 1 be found on the congrega- tion's web site at www.eong- 2 3 4 7 8 The differences did not divide along partisan lines, participants said, with some of the fiercest resistance to .putting a hold on new sanc- tions coming from staffers for Democrats. Those who want to enhance sanctions empha sized that Iran continues to enrich uranium and ignore other U.N. Security Council demands. "We .think that this is a time for.\\;a pause to see if negotiatkms can gain trac- tion," Wendy Sherman, the third-highest-ranked official at the State Department, who is leading talks with Iran, told the Voice of America. Sherman's pleas, which she made in a meetingwith House members last week and will repeat in a Senate meeting this week, seem to have had an effect. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Com- mittee, told a Jewish audience last week that he would be open to freezing sanctions action for a period of time. "I would be open to freez- ing further legislative action Beth Am From page 1A forward to serve our country and, in some cases, put their lives on the line. Veterans Day is the perfect time to show them and their families how much we appreciate them." - All military personnel; past and present, the La- dies Auxiliary of the Jewish War Veterans and spouses of veterans will be honored during this service. A "Kad- dish" prayer, which will be honoring the memory of the departed men and women ged and a very good play- maker, and his shooting is improving every day," the Mavs veteran coach said. Entering the NBA, outside shootingwas the area Mekel most needed to improve, said his Maccabi Haifa coach, Brad Greenberg. But he added that the team's run to last year's IBL championship really showcased Mekel's solid skill set: penetrating to the basket, distributing the ball, playing tough defense and providing leadership. A close State Cup cham- pionship loss to Maccabi Tel Aviv, which Haifa later de- feated for the IBL title, "was when I realized he was pretty special," Greenberg said. "He scored, he made clutch plays," he said. "He had a standout game in a high- pressure situation against a great team." Mekel and Casspi actually honed their skills as team- mates on junior clubs, includ- ing Tel Aviv's, before Mekel headed to Wichita State to play two.years. Casspi would win anIBLchampionshipwithTel Aviv in 2009; Mekel won it the following season with Hapoel Gilboa Galil. They have remained friends. Casspi referred Mekel to his Florida-based trainer after Mekel signed with Dallas. And last summer in Israel, Mekel watched Casspi and the rest of the national team practice for the EuroBasket tournament. Their chat with JTA was akin to a family reunion. "Did my father tell you? He saw,your aunt in Slovenia," Casspi said of the early- September tournament. The aunt and Mekel's father will fly in from Ramat Aviv for the Mavs-Rockets game on Friday, but Casspi's family will wait for alonger homestand so they can attend more games. Throughout the season, "we'll watch each other, look up to each other," Casspi said. "For me, it's great to have somebody to... get tips from," Mekel said. "All the things rookies go through, I have a guy I can ask, and have a friend to speak the language-with." Casspi and Mekel were ready to conclude the inter- view and head off to dinner. Perhaps down the line, they may even get to break bread with more Israelis in the NBA. "If we do well and represent the country well," Mekel said, "we could open the door for other guys, like Omri opened the door for me." 1 834 7256 5 .1 9 7 8371 3429 2568 6742 4 9 961 5