Mike Muscala’s return to Oklahoma City means the Thunder will once again have strong veteran leadership.
Last year for OKC, Muscala brought a nice scoring touch to the team off the bench. Stepping in to stretch the floor, Muscala averaged 9.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.3 blocks per game before he was shut down for the season after the trade deadline.
But Muscala’s biggest asset might be what he brings to the locker room and his leadership on the practice court.
The Thunder were fortunate enough to have a pair of veteran bigs who set a great example for the young guys off the court last year in Muscala and Al Horford, forward Darius Bazley said.
“Musky and Al, they’re true professionals,” Bazley said during his end of the season exit interviews at the conclusion of last year. “The way they approach the game, the way they show up every day and attack each day, I feel like that’s what myself — any of the guys on the team can take away from. They show up with the mindset to attack the day.
“Just to see how they carry themselves on and off the court, for me it’s a pleasure to be around. For me being a young player, I’m blessed to be around that to kind of see and have a visual model to be able to look and say that’s how I want to be going forward.”
The real test came for Muscala after the team shut him down last year.
At the end of the season, Muscala said the organization told him he was likely not going to play so that they could give more minutes to the young bigs to see what they could do, and Muscala said he appreciated the transparency.
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Even though he wasn’t getting run on the court, Muscala said he worked hard to still be a veteran leader for the team, even though it was in a different role than he’s ever played.
“It wasn’t frustrating for me,” Muscala said during his end of the season exit interview. “When I was not playing, I found it challenging to find ways to be a leader because as a player you often do it, at least for me, do it on the court. Being able to be out there and doing the actions, and then when you speak it or have something to say it makes it easier because you’re out there doing it.
“But I embraced it and took it as a good opportunity just to try to see the game differently without having to warm up and get all that stuff ready for the game… It was a good opportunity for me to try to see the game a little bit differently and maybe just mention some things to some guys and watch film in a different way than I had before.”
Having a veteran who can perform on the floor or help the locker room off it is great, but when one player can perform both roles, it’s a great asset to any organization, and Muscala appears to be all in with the Thunder.
“I just feel like it was a… Coming to OKC, I’m grateful for it and it helped me a lot as a man and as a player,” Muscala said. “Just even this year, even my family watching from home, I don’t know. I just feel like the organization’s values and the fans here and everything, it just lines with what I feel. So it made it really gratifying to come in every day and go to work and just have that, even this season, have that to do when so many people were struggling with COVID and all that. Even the opportunity to play basketball just meant a lot to me.
“I’ll always be a Thunder fan and always be rooting for the Thunder.”
After singing on again with Oklahoma City this offseason, Muscala can once again do more than just cheer for the organization that has grown to mean so much to him.
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