Mike Muscala

Sixers Notes: Morey, Offseason Changes, Fultz

When a July report indicated that the Sixers tried and failed to lure Daryl Morey away from Houston, it appeared that those discussions didn’t go far — Philadelphia reportedly received permission from the Rockets to talk to Morey, but the veteran executive decided to remain in his current job.

According to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com, however, Morey didn’t turn down the Sixers’ advances out of hand. One source close to the process tells Arnovitz that discussions got “pretty far down the road” before Morey elected to stay in Houston.

As the 76ers’ search for a new head of basketball operations continued following their failed bid for Morey, a consensus begin to build that it was important to maintain continuity in the front office, per Arnovitz. That’s one reason why Elton Brand was the eventual choice for the general manager job.

“When you live with these guys over three months, from draft and free agency, you appreciate what we already had,” head coach Brett Brown said, per Arnovitz. “Elton was always going to be a general manager at some point, in some city. And it might as well be here, and it might as well be now.”

According to Arnovitz, multiple league insiders viewed the decision to promote Brand and give him the title of GM (rather than president of basketball operations) as a “statement of control” by Sixers ownership — if they get cold feet on Brand down the road, they could always bring in a veteran executive above him. For now though, he’s running the show in Philadelphia.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Arnovitz’s feature on the Sixers, which is worth checking out in full, also includes details on how Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are shaping the franchise’s culture and identity, and the lessons Embiid was taught by Tim Duncan during his rookie year in 2014/15.
  • Replacing Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli on the second unit will be one of Brown’s biggest challenges this season, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. In 23 games after that duo was acquired in February, the second unit averaged 41.6 PPG and improved its three-point percentage from 32.2% to 35.2%. Mike Muscala and Wilson Chandler, acquired in trades this summer, are projected to replace them in the rotation but both are batting injuries, Murphy adds.
  • Late first-rounder Landry Shamet had a productive preseason and that opens up more options for the second unit, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer notes. Shamet, a 6’5” point guard, had a pair of double-digit games while mostly working alongside J.J. Redick. “I think it went about as well as it could have,” Shamet told Todd. “I didn’t surprise myself, that’s kind of the way I look at it.”
  • Markelle Fultz will start the season opener and Redick will come off the bench, Jon Johnson of KYW 1060 Philadelphia tweets. The 2017 top overall pick will be starting for the first time. Fultz only appeared in 14 regular season and three postseason games as a rookie. Redick, who averaged a career-best 17.1 PPG last season, hasn’t come off the bench in a regular season game since the 2013/14 season.

(Dana Gauruder contributed to this post.)

Sixers Notes: Chandler, Muscala, Covington, Fultz

It appears Wilson Chandler‘s hamstring injury will linger at least a couple of weeks into the regular season, coach Brett Brown says in a video tweeted by Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Chandler, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Nuggets, has been sidelined since straining his left hamstring September 28 in an exhibition game against Melbourne United.

“My experience with hamstrings is one that reminds you that it rarely is less than a month,” Brown said. “And it’s not like he’s 20 years old. … We don’t need to rush him back into doing anything, and when his body says he’s ready to play, that’s when he’ll play.”

Brown added that no timeline has been set for Chandler to return, but repeated that it should be about a month from the original injury. The Sixers open their season Tuesday against the Celtics.

There’s more news out of Philadelphia:

  • The Sixers ran into another social media issue today that gave new GM Elton Brand his first public relations test since taking the job, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. The father of Mike Muscala allegedly posted inflammatory comments about Jimmy Butler on his Twitter account, which drew immediate condemnation from Brand. Muscala apologized for the incident and Brand absolved him of any blame. “Having known Mike since his rookie year in 2013-14 when we were teammates, I am also certain these posts are in no way reflective of his own personal beliefs,” Brand said. “Mike has always been a great teammate and ambassador for the game of basketball, and he has never shied away from using his platform to do good in the community. He has our organization’s full support.”
  • Robert Covington endured extreme roster turnover and some of the worst losing in history during his first two seasons in Philadelphia, but he has become the team’s longest-tenured player and an example to his younger teammates. In an interview with Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, Covington talks about how those early years molded him. “Coach Brown looks at me as one of the leaders, if not the leader, of this team because of everything I’ve faced and just how I’ve handled everything,” Covington said. “He looks at me as one of the strongest people on this team.”
  • Brown plans to stick with his preseason strategy of starting Markelle Fultz at shooting guard in the first half and J.J. Redick in the second half, relays Tom Moore of The Bucks County Courier Times. Both players say they’re on board with the unconventional arrangement.

Anthony To Hawks, Schroder To Thunder In Three-Team Trade

JULY 25: The three-team trade involving the Thunder, Hawks, and Sixers is now official, according to a series of press releases. The deal took several days to finalize because the clubs had to complete a few other roster moves first, including Philadelphia signing Jonah Bolden earlier today.

Upon being released by the Hawks, Anthony intends to sign with the Rockets.

JULY 19: The Thunder and Hawks have agreed to a trade that will send Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round pick to Atlanta, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City will receive Dennis Schroder in the deal. Royce Young of ESPN adds (via Twitter) that the 2022 first-rounder will have 1-14 protection, and will turn into two second-rounders if it doesn’t convey in ’22.

The Sixers will also be involved in the trade, according to Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who tweets that Philadelphia will acquire Mike Muscala from Atlanta and will send Justin Anderson to the Hawks. The 76ers will also deal Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to Oklahoma City, Vivlamore adds (via Twitter).

Upon acquiring him, the Hawks will waive Anthony, Wojnarowski adds. That will free up the veteran forward to join whatever a new team when he clears waivers, and the Rockets remain the strong frontrunners to land him.

We heard rumblings earlier this week about discussions between the Hawks and Thunder involving Anthony, Schroder, and Muscala, so it seems those two teams were able to find common ground, with the Sixers entering the mix as well. Here’s how the deal looks for each of the three teams involved:

Oklahoma City Thunder:

It has been nearly two weeks since word broke that the Thunder intended to part ways with Anthony, but the team resisted waiving him outright. Doing so would have reduced his $27.93MM cap charge to just $9.31MM, significantly reducing the club’s luxury-tax bill for 2018/19, but it would have added dead-money cap hits worth $9.31MM for the next two years as well.

By trading Anthony and a future protected pick and taking back Schroder and Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Thunder will reduce their 2018/19 team salary and projected tax bill substantially while also adding a productive point guard in Schroder. The 24-year-old, who averaged 19.4 PPG and 6.2 APG last season, figures to assume a role similar to the one Reggie Jackson previously had in Oklahoma City.

According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), Thunder GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan were granted permission to speak to Schroder before the deal was agreed upon, and both Presti and Donovan are “enthusiastic” about the fit. Oklahoma City had been seeking more speed and another ball-handler, Woj notes.

Still, there’s a reason Schroder was available. There are on-court questions about his shooting and defense, and off-court concerns about his character and his legal issues. Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge last September, with Georgia officials recommending in March that he be prosecuted for felony aggravated battery. He’ll face discipline from his team and/or the league when that case is resolved, but the Thunder appear to be banking him avoiding a more serious sentence.

As for the specific tax figures, by my count, the Thunder will now have a team salary of about $148.74MM with a projected tax bill just over $88.75MM. Prior to the deal, those numbers sat at about $160.97MM and $157.75MM, respectively. While Oklahoma City’s tax outlook for 2018/19 has improved, the Thunder will have to be wary about increased penalties in future seasons after adding Schroder’s $15.5MM annual salary through 2020/21. They’ll likely deal with that when the time comes though.

It’s worth noting that a lengthy suspension without pay for Schroder could further reduce the Thunder’s team salary and tax hit in 2018/19. A suspension would also reduce the likelihood of the point guard earning the $2MM in unlikely incentives included in his contract, though not all of those bonuses are tied to individual performance, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes.

Finally, the Thunder will create a traded player exception worth $10,883,189 in the deal. They’ll have a year to use it.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks had been determined to move Schroder for much of the offseason, and drafting Trae Young and acquiring Jeremy Lin made Atlanta’s former starting point guard even more expendable. Despite his solid production, Schroder had a slew of on- and off-court question marks, as detailed above, and he was drafted and extended by Atlanta’s previous front office — general manager Travis Schlenk never seemed particularly attached to him.

By moving Schroder ($15.5MM) and Muscala ($5MM) for Anthony ($27.93MM) and Anderson ($2.52MM), the Hawks take advantage of their remaining cap room — they’re able to take back significantly more salary than they sent out as a result of that space.

Atlanta won’t get any real immediate help out of the deal, but the club will create future cap flexibility by clearing Schroder’s three remaining years from its books — both Anthony and Anderson are on expiring deals, and Carmelo will be waived shortly. According to Wojnarowski (via Twitter), he’ll get his full $27.93MM salary from the Hawks. That was certainly agreed upon prior to the completion of the deal, since Anthony had a no-trade clause and could’ve vetoed the move if he thought Atlanta would ask him to give back money in a buyout.

The Hawks will also acquire a 2022 first-round pick, which they’ll receive as long as Oklahoma City is a playoff team in ’22 — otherwise, it will become two second-rounders. The Stepien rule, which prevents teams from trading consecutive future first-rounders, meant that the Thunder would have had a hard time dealing an earlier first-round pick, since they’d already sent their top-20 protected 2020 first-rounder to Orlando.

Philadelphia 76ers:

While the Sixers’ involvement in this deal may seem extraneous, it’s a nice bit of business for Philadelphia. In Muscala, the team will acquire a big man capable of knocking down outside shots — he’s a career 37.8% three-point shooter and made a career-best 1.2 threes per game in 2017/18.

The Sixers thought they’d acquired a player who fit that role earlier in the offseason when they reached an agreement to sign Nemanja Bjelica, but Bjelica backed out of his deal with the team, leaving Philadelphia seeking a replacement. Muscala is a solid fallback plan, and is on an expiring contract, meaning he won’t compromise the team’s future cap flexibility.

In order to acquire Muscala, the Sixers only had to surrender Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot, a pair of players who seemed unlikely to have regular rotation roles for the team in 2018/19. The move will also help the 76ers clear out a roster logjam, as the team had 16 players under contract and was still believed to be considering bringing over draft-and-stash prospect Jonah Bolden. Following the deal, the Sixers are back down to 15 players on NBA contracts, not including Bolden or 2018 second-rounder Shake Milton.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Hawks, Thunder Have Discussed Carmelo Anthony

The Thunder and Hawks have engaged in discussions on a potential trade involving Carmelo Anthony, reports NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence (Twitter link). According to Lawrence, the Thunder are looking at Dennis Schroder and Mike Muscala, and if the two sides can make a deal, Atlanta would buy out Anthony’s expiring contract.

Per Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Hawks and Thunder spoke in Las Vegas about a possible trade involving Anthony, but those talks didn’t get serious. Still, Vivlamore acknowledges that things could change now that Atlanta has acquired another point guard in Jeremy Lin.

The Hawks have been exploring possible trades involving Schroder for much of the offseason, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that their acquisition of Lin may expedite the process of moving Schroder. While the 24-year-old has been a productive player on the court, concerns related to his legal troubles and locker-room fit have limited his appeal to both the Hawks and to potential suitors. Lawrence indicates that trading Schroder is Atlanta’s “No. 1 priority.”

Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge last September, with Georgia officials recommending in March that he be prosecuted for felony aggravated battery. He figures to face discipline from his team and/or the league when that case is resolved. Jail time also isn’t entirely out of the question, though Hawks officials are reportedly confident that will be avoided.

Meanwhile, the Thunder continue to explore ways to part ways with Anthony without simply having to waive him. Cutting Anthony outright and stretching his salary over the next three years would result in cap hits of $9.3MM+ annually through 2020/21. Oklahoma City would like to find a way to reduce its projected tax bill by cutting costs in an Anthony trade, though it’s unclear if the team is willing to add an asset – such as a future first-round pick – to make that happen. That may be a sticking point for the Hawks, per Lawrence and Vivlamore.

We outlined in detail last week how an Anthony trade could work for a team that has available cap room, but not necessarily enough to accommodate his full $27.93MM salary. The Hawks meet that criteria. They can create about $10MM in cap space, so they wouldn’t have to match salaries if they were to trade for Anthony — Schroder ($15.5MM) and Muscala ($5MM) would be enough.

Hawks’ Mike Muscala Exercises Option

Mike Muscala has picked up his $5MM option and will return to the Hawks next season, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The fifth-year center/power forward is coming off a career-best year, averaging 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 53 games. An ankle injury limited his availability for the first two months of the season, but he played well once he recovered. Muscala, who turns 27 next week, was the 44th pick in the 2013 draft and has remained in Atlanta ever since.

Muscala follows teammate Dewayne Dedmon, who exercised his $7.2MM option on Wednesday. Their decisions leave the Hawks with about $20MM in cap space heading into free agency, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks, who adds that Atlanta could be a popular spot for teams willing to give up draft picks to unload unwanted contracts (Twitter link).

As our list of player option decisions shows, Muscala becomes the 16th NBA veteran to exercise a 2018/19 option this offseason, after just five vets picked up player options last summer.

Southeast Notes: Gordon, Simmons, Muscala, James

Newly-hired Magic head coach Steve Clifford recently visited Aaron Gordon in San Jose, California as part of an effort to get to know his players, tweets Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Gordon is a restricted free agent this summer, but reports have indicated that the Magic are likely to retain his services, even if they have to go up to the maximum salary to do so.

In April, Gordon addressed what his “ideal’ contract would be this summer. “Ideal is max,” Gordon said, per Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link). “That would be ideal. Three letters. … Definitely here (in Orlando).”

While injuries limited him to 58 games this past season, Gordon posted the best totals of his career. Gordon, 22, averaged 17.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG for the Magic.

Check out more Southeast Division notes below:

  • Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons underwent surgery on his right wrist in late April, a team spokesman confirmed to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Simmons missed the final 12 games of the season due to a wrist injury. It’s unclear when Simmons will resume basketball activities. In 69 games, Simmons averaged  13.9 PPG while shooting 46.5% from the field.
  • Hawks big man Mike Muscala remains undecided about what he will do with his $5MM player option for 2018/19, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Muscala has until June 29 to make a decision on that option.
  • While the possibility may be slim, LeBron James leaving the Cavaliers to join the Wizards is not that far-fetched, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington opines. Hughes writes that the opportunity to stay in the Eastern Conference, a chance to win now, and a fondness for D.C. are just a few reasons why James could consider the nation’s capital.

2018 NBA Free Agent Stock Watch: Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are in the early stages of a rebuild after years as a modest contender in the Eastern Conference. Given new general manager Travis Schlenk‘s desire to preserve cap flexibility, you can imagine the franchise will be particularly prudent when free agency resumes in July.

As things stand, the club has just $70.5MM on the books for next season, a figure that drops to $60.2MM if you subtract a pair of player options that we’ll discuss below.

The Hawks will have little incentive to keep their payroll that tight given the salary floor projected in the $85MM range but they’ll be dead-set against committing to inconsequential long-term deals unless it comes in the form of a trade for a significant asset.

Dewayne Dedmon, C, 28 (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $12.3MM deal in 2017
After years as a journeyman, Dedmon began to make a name for himself as a surprisingly productive reserve for a legitimate contender in San Antonio. While he never played enough minutes to make it onto the mainstream radar, he’s a value add that landed in an ideal environment in Atlanta. Though Dedmon has stepped up in the biggest opportunity of his career thus far, he doesn’t have much of a role with the Hawks long term given the fact that, at 28 years of age, he doesn’t really fit their timeline. Expect him to turn down his player option and hit the open market in search of a raise from his current $6MM salary. Dedmon could be a double-double talent for any team that really wanted him to be but it’s more likely that he settles in as a go-to frontcourt bench option with his stellar career per-36 rates.

Malcolm Delaney, PG, 29 (Down) – Signed to a two-year, $5MM deal in 2016
It’s hard to imagine that Delaney will generate much interested as a restricted free agent considering his age and 5.7 career point-per-game average but that doesn’t mean the franchise won’t look to bring him back on a short-term deal if they simply need bodies that the coaching staff is familiar with. If he’s not back in Atlanta, however, he may have a hard time landing a gig.

Mike Muscala, 27, C (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $10MM deal in 2017
Having carved out a role for himself as a decent defensive big man with a plus three-point shot, Muscala could conceivably draw interest from other teams if he turned down his player option for 2018/19. In reality, however, it’s hard to imagine Muscala definitively emerging from a crowded center market to land a deal better than his current one. Muscala isn’t a spring chicken by NBA standards but prolonging a free agency decision until 2019, when he’s 28 years old, wouldn’t be an awful idea.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

And-Ones: Pistons, Hood, Muscala, Referees

The general consensus among various league executives and agents is that this season’s trade deadline won’t be overly eventful, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. While several smaller-scale deals could be made, the 2018 deadline figures to be short on blockbusters, particularly since many big trades already happened during the 2017 offseason.

Still, O’Connor’s trade deadline preview touches on many players and teams, mixing in a few new tidbits alongside news and rumors that have been previously reported. For instance, the Bulls and Pistons are among the teams believed to have interest in Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood, according to O’Connor, who adds that virtually any Utah player not named Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell could be had in the right deal.

Among O’Connor’s other items of interest: Hawks big man Mike Muscala has generated “light interest” around the NBA, and execs across the league have vastly different opinions on Pistons trade candidate Stanley Johnson — some view him as a potential low-cost steal, while others are bearish on his value.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the NBA:

  • In his latest piece at NBA.com, TNT’s David Aldridge has 10 trade ideas that he believes would make sense for the various teams involved.
  • The NBA recently announced an initiative that the league hopes will improve the working relationship between its players and referees. Sam Amick of USA Today spoke to Monty McCutchen, a former top-rated ref who has joined the league office, about the five-part program.
  • In his latest look at trade rumors from around the NBA, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post explores how the Pelicans and Thunder will try to fill the holes created in their rotations after season-ending injuries to DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Roberson, respectively.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/24/17

Here are the G-League transactions from around the NBA today:

  • The Hawks have recalled guard Tyler Dorsey and big man Mike Muscala from the organization’s G League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, the team announced in a press release. Dorsey has appeared in 10 games for the Hawks this season while Muscala has played in nine contests.
  • The Wolves announced that the 18th overall pick from this year’s NBA Draft, Justin Patton, has been recalled from the team’s G League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves (via Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune). Patton had been sidelined with a broken left foot to start a season before starting a G League assignment earlier this month. Patton, 20, appeared in six games with Iowa.
  • The Magic have recalled center Khem Birch from their G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic, the team announced (via Twitter). Birch, 25, has appeared briefly in four games for Orlando this season.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/19/17

Here are Tuesday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

3:36pm:

  • In addition to assigning Muscala to the G League (noted below), the Hawks have also sent Tyler Dorsey to the Erie Bayhawks, the club announced today in a press release.

3:03pm:

  • The Hawks have sent veteran big man Mike Muscala to the G League, the team announced today in a press release. Muscala, who had to sign off on his assignment to the Erie BayHawks, is rehabbing an ankle injury, and this move suggests he’s progressing toward a return.
  • Rookie guard Terrance Ferguson has been assigned to the Oklahoma City Blue, according to a press release issued today by the Thunder. Ferguson figures to suit up tonight for the Thunder’s G League affiliate against the Northern Arizona Suns.