Mike Muscala

Muscala Has Pinky Fracture, Will Be Reevaluated In Two Weeks

Thunder big man Mike Muscala fractured his left pinky finger against the Knicks on Monday, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays via a tweet from the team’s PR department. Muscala won’t play for the next two weeks and then the injury will be reevaluated.

Muscala has appeared in 14 of Oklahoma City’s 17 games this season, averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. A forward/center capable of stretching the floor, Muscala is off to a slow start from the perimeter, making just 31.8% of his 3-point attempts.

Muscala, who is in his fourth season with the Thunder, averaged a career-best 42.9% from deep last season. He was re-signed to a two-year, $7MM contract this summer. He’s not eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 and also has the right to veto a trade. The team holds an option on his salary for next season.

Eugene Omoruyi potentially could pick up additional minutes in Muscala’s absence.

Contract Details: Muscala, Harden, Blazers, More

The new contract that veteran forward/center Mike Muscala signed with the Thunder is essentially identical to the one he signed with the team in 2021, Hoops Rumors has learned.

Muscala’s new deal covers two years and has matching $3.5MM cap hits in each of those two seasons for a total of $7MM. The first year is guaranteed, while the second year is a team option. All of those details also applied to the two-year, $7MM contract he signed in ’21.

The Thunder chose to decline Muscala’s $3.5MM team option for 2022/23 back in June, but will now pay him that exact salary next season, with another $3.5MM team option for ’23/24. Since Oklahoma City had Muscala’s Bird rights, the club didn’t have to dip into its mid-level exception to complete the signing.

Here are a few more details on recently signed contracts from around the NBA:

  • James Harden‘s new two-year contract with the Sixers will pay him exactly $33MM in 2022/23 and includes a 2023/24 player option worth $35.64MM. The two-year, $68.64MM pact includes a 15% trade kicker.
  • The training camp contracts that Norvel Pelle and Isaiah Miller signed with the Trail Blazers include Exhibit 10 language. That gives Portland the option of converting either contract into a two-way deal before the regular season begins.
  • The new two-way contracts signed by Duane Washington (Suns) and Trent Forrest (Hawks) are each just for one season.

Thunder Officially Sign Mike Muscala

The Thunder have officially signed veteran big man Mike Muscala, the team announced in a press release today. Oklahoma City originally agreed to re-sign the 31-year-old during the initial hours of free agency on June 30 and now has a full 20-man offseason roster.

Muscala, 6’10”, played 43 games with the Thunder last season. He averaged 8.0 points and 3.0 rebounds, playing 13.8 minutes per contest. He also shot 45.6% from the floor and 42.9% from deep.

As of now, Muscala is the oldest player on Oklahoma City’s roster. He and Derrick Favors, also 31, can serve as mentors to young players such as Josh Giddey, Chet Holmgren and Aleksej Pokusevski — whether on the court or in the locker room.

Muscala first joined the Thunder as a free agent in 2019. Before that, he was drafted No. 44 overall in 2013 and played for the Hawks, Sixers and Lakers. He’s expected to provide frontcourt depth for a team that finished just 24-58 last season.

Assuming Muscala signed a fully guaranteed contract, he’s the 17th Thunder player with a guaranteed salary for 2022/23. Vit Krejci also has a partial guarantee, so the team will have to trade or release three players before opening night to get down to the 15-man regular season limit.

Mike Muscala To Return To Thunder

Veteran center Mike Muscala will return to the Thunder on a one-year veteran’s minimum contract, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter).

The club declined its $3.5MM team option on Muscala prior to the start of free agency. The veteran’s minimum for a player with nine years of NBA service is projected to be $2,641,682.

Initially drafted by the Hawks with the No. 44 pick in 2013 out of Bucknell, Muscala eventually evolved into a modern floor-spacing power forward/center. He split the 2018/19 season between the Sixers and Lakers. Muscala first signed with the Thunder in 2019.

The longtime vet, who turns 31 tomorrow, has spent his last three seasons with Oklahoma City. In 43 games last year for a rebuilding Thunder club, Muscala averaged 8.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG during 13.8 MPG. On offense, the 6’10” big man has carved out a niche as a bench shooting threat, boasting a career three-point conversion rate of 37.7% on 2.5 tries a game. Last season, he connected on 42.9% of his 3.8 looks a night.

Muscala joins fellow re-signed OKC veteran Luguentz Dort in returning to a rebuilding Thunder club loaded with present and future young assets.

Oklahoma City enjoyed one of the most active drafts among any NBA team this year, selecting Gonzaga power forward/center Chet Holmgren, NZ Breakers wing Ousmane Dieng, and Santa Clara guard Jalen Williams in the lottery. Ever the completist, team president Sam Presti also grabbed Arkansas power forward Jaylin Williams with the No. 34 pick in the second round. They join a team loaded with other exciting young players in Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Tre Mann, and Darius Bazley.

Thunder Decline Muscala’s Team Option, Pick Up Roby’s

The Thunder have declined their 2022/23 team option on Mike Muscala and exercised their option on Isaiah Roby, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype and Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter links).

Muscala’s option was worth $3.5MM and declining it makes him an unrestricted free agent. Roby’s $1,930,681 contract for next season is currently non-guaranteed, but will become fully guaranteed on July 3, per Smith.

Muscala, 30, had arguably the best season of his nine-year career in ’21/22, averaging 8 PPG and 3 RPG on .456/.429/.842 shooting in 43 games. While those figures are relatively modest, he averaged just 13.8 MPG, so he was quite productive on a per-minute basis.

Ankle surgery in March ended Muscala’s season prematurely, which is why he only appeared in 43 contests last season. Teams looking for a reserve big man capable of making three-pointers (37.7% career) could do worse than Muscala, who will likely be pretty affordable.

In his third season with Oklahoma City, the 6’8″ Roby averaged a career-best 10.1 PPG along with 4.8 RPG on .514/.444/.672 shooting in 45 games (21.1 MPG).

His season was a study in halves, as Roby rarely saw action before the All-Star break (22 games, 15.1 MPG) and spent time in the G League. In the second half of the season when most of the Thunder’s roster was decimated by injuries, Roby averaged 13.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1 SPG and 1 BPG in 23 games, including 20 starts (26.8 MPG).

Thunder’s Dort, Muscala, Jerome Done For Season Following Surgeries

Thunder players Luguentz Dort, Mike Muscala and Ty Jerome will all be out for the rest of the 2021/22 season following surgeries to address various ailments, per a team press release.

Dort had an operation to treat a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Muscala had a scope and lateral ligament repair on his right ankle. Jerome, who has been dealing with a hip injury, went under the knife for what the Thunder term to be a sports hernia, and could return in just eight weeks. Oklahoma City anticipates that Dort and Muscala will be ready to play in time for the beginning of the 2022/23 NBA season.

Muscala had reportedly been considering an offseason surgery to address the ankle injury — it appears he opted to accelerate that timeline. The news of Dort and Jerome requiring surgeries comes as more of a surprise.

At 20-44, the rebuilding Thunder are currently the No. 14 seed in the Western Conference. The extended absences of Dort, Muscala and Jerome – all rotation players – for the rest of the year should help Oklahoma City’s tanking efforts.

According to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (via Twitter), Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said that the country’s top sports doctors were occupied with NFL Combine obligations over the last week, which led to all these surgeries all transpiring on the same day.

Dort, still just 22, has emerged as one of the Thunder’s best players. In 51 games this year, the defensive-oriented swingman averaged 17.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG and 0.9 SPG. “It’s gotta be pretty significant for a specialist to recommend surgery,” Daigneault said of the labrum tear, per Mussatto (Twitter link).

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the Thunder hold a $1.9MM team option for Dort for 2022/23. Should Oklahoma City pick up the option, the team could then offer him a four-year, $58MM contract extension before he reaches unrestricted free agency in 2023. The club could also turn down that team option to make him a restricted free agent this offseason.

The other two sidelined Thunder players have not been as essential for Oklahoma City this season. Jerome, a 24-year-old shooting guard, logged 7.1 PPG, 2.3 APG and 1.6 in 48 games (16.7 MPG) during his third NBA season. Muscala averaged 8.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 13.8 MPG across 43 contests for the Thunder, who have a $3.5MM team option on the 30-year-old big man for the 2022/23 season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Set To Return For Thunder

Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will return to action on Thursday after missing the team’s last 10 games due to a right ankle sprain, head coach Mark Daigneault said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Gilgeous-Alexander suffered the injury on January 28.

The 18-40 Thunder are 6.5 games back of the No. 10 seed and aren’t expected to prioritize making the playoffs this season, so it’s safe to assume they wouldn’t be bringing back Gilgeous-Alexander if he weren’t feeling 100% healthy.

The star point guard had been averaging 22.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, and 4.7 RPG shooting in 43 games (34.6 MPG) before going down with his ankle injury. He has struggled to score efficiently this season, however, posting career-low shooting percentages of 42.4% from the floor and 27.8% on threes.

Rookie guard Josh Giddey has been thriving with Gilgeous-Alexander out of the lineup, having recorded three consecutive triple-doubles in the games leading up to the All-Star break. He likely won’t have the ball in his hands as much with SGA on the court, so Daigneault may have to get creative with his lineups and his rotation to ensure Giddey doesn’t lose that momentum.

According to Daigneault, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (foot), Mike Muscala (ankle), Ty Jerome (hip), Luguentz Dort (shoulder), and Kenrich Williams (knee) are still sidelined. Daigneault didn’t offer any guarantees when asked if Muscala, who is considering offseason ankle surgery, will be back this season (Twitter links via Mussatto).

Northwest Notes: Ja. Green, Beasley, Jazz, Muscala

Nuggets forward JaMychal Green, one of the team’s top remaining trade candidates, showed his value on Tuesday night, pouring in 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting in just 17 minutes, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Green and his $8.2MM cap hit could be necessary if Denver makes a move for a small forward, but the veteran suggested after Tuesday’s game that he’s not worried about being the subject of trade rumors.

“I’m still getting paid, man, first and the 15th,” Green said with a laugh, according to Singer.

Of course, Green has reason not to be concerned. The contract he signed in the offseason gives him the ability to veto a trade, and Singer has reported that the 31-year-old likely wouldn’t approve a move to a non-contender. That will increase the level of difficulty for the Nuggets as they consider their options today.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Timberwolves wing Malik Beasley, the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, said this week that his preference would be to stay in Minnesota. I’m just working hard and doing what I gotta do, whether I’m here or anywhere else,” Beasley said (Twitter link via Dane Moore). “I’d rather be here, but it’s a business, so you can never know what can happen.”
  • Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at how Nickeil Alexander-Walker will fit in with the Jazz, writing that the third-year guard represents a low-risk, high-reward addition to the roster. Utah isn’t necessarily done dealing, but has been reluctant to add a first-round pick to its trade offers, according to Jones, who adds that it remains to be seen whether newly-acquired forward Juan Hernangomez will remain on the roster for the rest of the season.
  • Thunder big man Mike Muscala will be sidelined through the All-Star break due to a right ankle injury, per head coach Mark Daigneault (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). Muscala is knocking down 42.9% of his threes this year and could theoretically be a trade candidate, but his ankle issue will hurt his value and Oklahoma City seems to like having him around anyway. Muscala has been in OKC since 2019.

Northwest Notes: Nurkic, Little, Muscala, Wolves

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is enjoying the best season of his career and he doesn’t want to see it disrupted by a trade, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic. Along with averaging 14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, Nurkic has provided a strong interior presence for a defense that was the league’s worst last season. Fivethirtyeight.com’s RAPTOR rating has Nurkic as the eighth-best defender in the league.

Even so, Nurkic is considered to be a trade candidate because of his $12MM expiring contract. He said Joe Cronin talked to him after taking over as interim general manager and promised to keep him as part of the core in Portland.

“Nothing is 100 percent, but I feel like for the team, and who I think I am as a player, there is no way I’m leaving (in a trade),” Nurkic said. “I don’t see anything possible. Obviously, I want to be part of this organization as long as (Damian Lillard) is, and as long as we want to win. But if the team wants to go in a different direction, then I’m willing to do whatever they want to do.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • The loss of Nassir Little, who may miss the rest of the season with a labral tear in his left shoulder, was a major disappointment for the Trail Blazers, notes Casey Holdahl of NBA.com. Little had established himself as a rotation player in his third NBA season and his first under head coach Chauncey Billups“He didn’t play very much before I was here, or at least have a consistent role, so one of the things for him was to try to earn the trust of the coaching staff, and he did that,” Billups said. “And to earn the trust of his players, he did that.”
  • Thunder forward Mike Muscala is considering right ankle surgery after the season ends, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Muscala has been dealing with pain in the ankle since suffering a stress fracture last season.
  • Timberwolves coach Chris Finch says the team has “clean-up things to do” regarding the new defensive approach he implemented this season, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Minnesota has been a top-10 defense for most of the year, but has surrendered at least 110 points in eight of its last 10 games.

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Olshey, Bazley, Jokić

Starting Jazz small forward Royce O’Neale appears to be increasing Utah’s ceiling this season by becoming a bigger offensive threat, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic.

“I’m trying to just take what the defense gives me,” O’Neale said of his revamped offense this season with the Jazz. “I’m trying to find ways to get open, whether I am finishing at the basket or kicking it out for the open three. I’m trying to find the open guy. I don’t want the ball to stick in my hands. Everybody thrives off moving the ball, finding the open guy.”

Though O’Neale is still averaging a fairly modest output of 7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 2.2 APG, along with an excellent 2.2 SPG, Jones contends that O’Neale’s consistent three-point shooting and his improved cutting away from the ball have made him a player that opposing defenses need to respect. This could improve the Jazz’s outlook in the postseason.

“This is what I’ve been trying to train for in the offseason,” O’Neale said of how he hopes to help the Jazz. “I want to do whatever I have to do for us to win. Whether that’s guarding the best player, or knocking down shots. I’m just trying to not be tired and to play the whole game, if I can.”

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • The Trail Blazersinvestigation into the alleged workplace misconduct of longtime president Neil Olshey could last a few weeks, well beyond the duration initially anticipated, writes Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
  • Third-year Thunder forward Darius Bazley has looked to learn from 30-year-old veteran center Mike Muscala, the team’s oldest player, per Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman. “I don’t know if Mike knows this, but I look up to him,” Bazley said. “Just to see Mike and his readiness, whether he’s playing good or playing bad, he always comes in with the same energy and effort, and today he was rewarded for it.”
  • The league continues to gather information on the on-court fight between All-NBA Nuggets center Nikola Jokić and Heat forward Markieff Morris. Mike Singer of the Denver Post tweets that a league announcement on an expected suspension period for Jokić could be announced as late as tomorrow. Denver head coach Michael Malone has indicated that an extended absence for Jokić could open the door for more rotational run for reserve big men Bol Bol and Zeke Nnaji, per Sean Keeler of the Denver Post“Maybe some guys like Bol Bol (and) Zeke Nnaji that haven’t had a great chance to play yet are going to have a chance to get out there and play rotational minutes,” Malone said. “But we’ll react once we get that news.” Malone also noted that he would feature forwards Jeff Green, JaMychal Green, and Aaron Gordon in the post more frequently should Jokić be unavailable tomorrow for the club’s next game against the Pacers.