In what was an otherwise forgettable game against the Denver Nuggets Friday night, Dallas Mavericks center Salah Mejri made the play of the game. It wasn’t a block or dunk, though. With 8:51 remaining in the first quarter, Maxi Kleber dished the ball to Mejri in the corner. Gathering himself, the Tunisian big man dribbled once, took a stutter step back behind the three-point line, lined up his shot, and released. Swish.
“It was lucky,” Mejri said after the game.
When you consider that it’s only the second three he’s knocked down in his career (your move, Ben Simmons), it’s easy to assume that fortune was in his favor. However, the long-ball is something that Mejri is working on incorporating to his game.
“He’s working on it,” head coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s something that I talked to him about three weeks ago and he needs to work on that and develop that element of his game. That’s the thing that’s going to drive some five men into extinction in this league. More and more guys are shooting it. Salah’s got a better touch than a lot of people would probably know.”
Mejri hasn’t seen a lot of playing time this season so his numbers are skewed by a small sample size. In the past, he’s shot the ball well enough from three to 10 feet—40 percent—but never showed consistency beyond that range to warrant a move behind the arc. Yet, as Carlisle notes, the game is changing and shooting threes is something every player, including Mejri, needs to be able to do.
“Look, if he works on it enough, I don’t have a problem with him taking open threes,” Carlisle said. “We’ve got [Dwight] Powell doing it. Kleber’s gotten way better. Systemically, it’s the kind of thing you have to have in your bag of tricks—or your bag of regular things.”
Apparently, the time has come for Mejri to add it to his bag. It doesn’t mean that he is going to come out every night and fire away from deep like a man possessed. Those passions will likely materialize in other ways. Besides, he still has a long way to go before he develop consistency from deep, but he’s working to get a better feel for the shot. And if the opportunity to hoist one from deep presents itself in a game again, he has a green light.
“Whenever I would feel like really comfortable with it, I may be shooting more,” Mejri said. “But for now, I’m good with the corner three from time to time, you know. Throw a bone for me and I’ll take that.”