While Israeli basketball fans have been forced to the sidelines, having no team to root for in this summer’s Olympics — Israel’s basketball team hasn’t qualified for the Olympics in over 60 years — they do have reason to rejoice. One of their own took one step closer to joining the NBA.
The New Orleans Pelicans announced last week that they signed 22-year-old Shawn Dawson. The Eilat native is coming off a successful stint with the Washington Wizards’ summer league team that resulted in an invite to their training camp. Dawson rejected it to attend the Pelican’s training camp instead.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) August 12, 2016
Dawson’s contract with the Pelicans is non-guaranteed, NBA reporter David Pick told the Jewish Week over Whatsapp, which means he will be “fighting NBA free-agent Chris Copeland” and others for a roster spot if the Pelicans decide to waive anyone.
Before Dawson made a run at the NBA, he made a name for himself in Israel, playing for Maccabi Rishon Letzion. Dawson’s 21 points in the Israeli championship game helped lift Maccabi Rishon over Hapoel Jerusalem (the team that former Knicks player Amare Stoudemire just signed with).
Pick thinks that, in all likelihood, Dawson won’t make it to the Pelicans this time around.
“I'd say he'll be back in Rishon to start the season,” he said.
In the event Dawson proves him wrong and does make a roster spot by the start of the NBA season, he will be the third Israeli ever to do so. Omri Casspi broke the mold in 2009 when he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings. Four years later, Gal Mekel signed with the Dallas Mavericks.
While Mekel is back in Israel playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, Casspi is still in the NBA and back playing for the team that drafted him, the Kings. If Dawson wins that spot on the Pelicans, he would make the trip with his team to Sacramento on November 8th to face off against, none other than, Omri Casspi.