Pacers add guard A.J. Price

ByMarc Stein ESPN logo
Friday, November 7, 2014

The Indiana Pacers have signed free-agent guard A.J. Price in the wake of what league sources said was their abandoning of plans to sign Gal Mekel because of a procedural snag with Mekel's visa.

Sources told that the Pacers, after flying Mekel to Boston on Wednesday so he could meet the team there Thursday, pulled out of a deal to sign the Israeli point guard upon learning that his visa that allows him to play in the NBA likely would not be renewed until Friday in the wake of his recent release by the Dallas Mavericks.

With a hardship waiver from the league allowing the injury-hit Pacers to sign a 16th player reportedly expiring Thursday, sources say that Indiana decided it couldn't wait any longer to see if Mekel's new visa could be fast-tracked.

The Pacers, sources said, then moved onto Price, who spent his first three NBA seasons in Indiana and became a free agent this week after his recent release by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Pacers have an urgent need for backcourt reinforcements after injuries to Rodney Stuckey (foot), George Hill (knee) and C.J. Watson (foot) in addition to Paul George's potentially season-ending compound leg fracture suffered Aug. 1. Donald Sloan scored a career-high 31 points Wednesday night in Indiana's overtime loss at Washington, but he's the only healthy point guard currently on its roster.

Visas for foreign-born players transfer automatically from team to team when a player is traded, but new paperwork must be completed by the next team when a player is released and clears waivers to sign elsewhere. Mekel's prior visa, after signing a three-year contract with Dallas in July 2013, expired once he cleared waivers, despite being a free agent for less than a week after being waived by the Mavericks on Oct. 29.

Price was a second-round draft pick by the Pacers in 2009 and has also played in Washington, Minnesota and Cleveland since leaving Indiana after the 2011-12 season.

Indiana initially targeted Mekel after the 26-year-old's strong preseason, which included a 19-point, nine-assist outburst against the Pacers on Oct. 18 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mekel then made the Mavericks' opening night roster out of training camp -- beating out three others with NBA experience for Dallas' last spot -- but was subsequently let go when the Mavs had an unexpected opportunity to re-sign J.J. Barea at a minimum salary and bring back a key reserve from the Mavs' 2011 championship team.

Mekel played sparingly in the second half of his rookie season after suffering a knee injury in January, but he bounced back with a strong preseason in Dallas. He teamed with Sacramento's Omri Casspi over the summer to lead Israel's basketball team to 2015 EuroBasket qualification despite Israel being stripped of all its home games in qualifying.

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