News of his deal flew under the radar on the evening of June 30 as blockbuster signings and trades were agreed upon, but veteran center Mike Muscala was one of the first names off the board that night, reaching an agreement with the Thunder shortly after the free agent period began.
When the Thunder changed direction a week later, first trading Paul George and then Russell Westbrook and Jerami Grant, the team gave Muscala an opportunity to reconsider his deal. Alec Burks, who also agreed to sign with the Thunder early in free agency, took advantage of the same opportunity and joined the Warriors instead, but Muscala opted to remain committed to Oklahoma City.
In a conversation with Brett Dawson of The Athletic, Muscala explained why he decided to stick with OKC and discussed what it was like to be the Thunder’s top priority when free agency got underway. If you’re an Athletic subscriber, the Q&A is worth reading in full, but here are a few of the big man’s more notable answers:
On being Sam Presti’s top target in free agency:
“Yeah, it was kind of funny. My agent called me a few days before free agency, and he said that the Thunder were quite interested. … So the first thing (my agent) said is, like, they wanted to talk with me right when free agency started. And then it moved to, ‘They want to meet with you.’ Then it was, ‘They want to meet with you in Minneapolis.’ Then it was, ‘They want to meet you at your house.’
“For a player like me, that’s not common. It was really flattering. Even when it changed, with PG and Russell leaving, that feeling just stuck with me. I just felt like, last year being traded a couple times, it just felt really flattering and felt really nice to be wanted in that way. And that feeling didn’t leave once that situation changed.”
On why the Thunder were so interested in him, and why he was intrigued by them:
“I think mostly for my shooting and my size. That was the big reason. But I feel like as far as organizations go and what the Thunder represent, I’ve always noticed their activity in the community and thought it was cool. … That’s always been something that I’ve tried to be better at and continue to do as much as I can. I just think it’s something that’s really, really cool about basketball, that you can affect people in so many ways and inspire youth and people.”
On why he opted to sign with the Thunder even after the team shifted away from contending and toward rebuilding:
“Obviously, at the beginning, the team and how it was structured was very intriguing. And that’s what I agreed to. But then even when that changed, I think because my feelings just were so good about the organization, it stuck with me. And I just felt that even despite the change in the roster, the personnel, that it would still be a good opportunity for me and that there would still be a lot that I could learn.
“I’ve never played the game with the approach that ‘Oh, I just want to win a championship.’ It’s never been like that. For me, it’s been more about the people I meet and have met throughout my career who I stay in touch with. I think that’s what’s so cool about basketball.”