Mike Muscala

Thunder Notes: Roster, Paul, Diallo, Abrines

A challenging early-season schedule may determine whether the Thunder decide to push for the playoffs or sell off their assets and start rebuilding, observes Brett Dawson of The Athletic. Oklahoma City will begin the season with 10 of its first 16 games against teams ranked in the top 10 by FiveThirtyEight.com. That will take the club into late November, close to the unofficial start of trade season when most free agents who signed this summer become eligible to be dealt on December 15.

OKC’s obvious trade candidates are Danilo Gallinari, who has an expiring deal worth $22.6MM, and Chris Paul, whom the organization tried to move shortly after acquiring him from the Rockets. Dawson also points toward Dennis Schroder, who has two seasons left at $15.5MM each, along with Nerlens Noel and Mike Muscala as other rotation players who could be on the move.

“Obviously the most important season is (this) season, and we want to maximize that season the best that we can,” GM Sam Presti said. “But not at the expense of continually and aggressively making sure that we’re repositioning and replenishing the team so that we have a platform and a runway for the next great Thunder team to take shape. I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive.”

There’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Regardless of how long Paul stays, the Thunder can count on his competitive nature to drive the team, writes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. Not only does Paul want to extend his streak of 50-win seasons, but the better he plays, the more he will drive up his trade value. “Obviously Russell (Westbrook) was an unbelievable competitor — I think Chris is an incredible competitor, too,” coach Billy Donovan said. “The biggest thing I’ve always tried to do with all these guys is to try to always be open and be honest and try to communicate. And I think that’s the way Chris is.”
  • Hamidou Diallo showed in Summer League that he is fully recovered after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in mid-April, notes Nick Gallo of NBA.com. Diallo was an important part of the rotation early in the season, but got into just six games after the All-Star break. He looked good in July, averaging 14.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals in four Summer League games. “In this league you’ve got to be ready for anything at any given time, and sometimes you face adversity, but you still have to learn how to fight through and learn how to push through,” Diallo said.
  • In an interview with Basket en Movistar+ (Twitter link), Alex Abrines speaks out about the mental health issues that drove him out of the NBA and credits Westbrook for trying to be a calming influence.

Mike Muscala Discusses Decision To Sign With Thunder

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.”

Thunder Notes: Patterson, Luxury Tax, Bliss, Gibbs

Erik Horne of The Oklahoman opines that Patrick Patterson became expendable after the Thunder acquired Danilo Gallinari from the Clippers, signed veteran free agent Mike Muscala, and drafted Darius Bazley in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

Gallinari is now the likely the starter at power forward, able to stretch the floor alongside big man Steven Adams. Meanwhile, Muscala has arguably been a more productive player the last two seasons and is three years younger. Finally, Bazley, still only 19 years old, will almost certainly merit playing time should the Thunder fall into rebuild mode.

Patterson, who was signed in the summer of 2017, was supposed to be the type of floor spacer the Thunder are now looking for from Gallinari, but he never lived up to his contract. The signing of Carmelo Anthony, which pushed Patterson to a reserve role, didn’t help, nor did undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in 2017.

That said, Patterson is just a season removed from shooting 38.6 percent from three-point range and 87 percent from the line, so it’s possible he could be a nice piece for the Clippers in the right role.

There’s more to report from Oklahoma City this afternoon:

  • According to Bobby Marks of ESPN, the Thunder will stretch Patterson’s cap hit over the next three seasons. With Patterson giving back $3.5MM of his $5,711,200 salary, the yearly cap hits equal $737,067 after taking set-off into account.
  • Marks adds (Twitter link) that while the Thunder are now approximately $698K below the luxury tax threshold, they only have 13 guaranteed contracts. As such, they’ll need to go back into the tax in order to sign another player to a standard contract.
  • Despite his infamous name, Thunder player development coach Dave Bliss, also a former Knicks’ assistant coach under former Thunder point guard Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek, is well on his way to a promising coaching career, writes Horne in a separate piece for The Oklahoman.
  • Former Gonzaga and Creighton guard Grant Gibbs has been named head coach of the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue, the team announced on Friday. Per Executive Vice President and GM Sam Presti, “Grant is someone we identified early in his post-playing career as a potential fit within our organization… He has steadily impressed us with his versatility as a coach. We believe he will do an excellent job with the Blue and is ready to continue his growth within the organization.”

Contract Details: Jazz, MCW, Muscala, Robinson

More contract details continue to trickle in as the 2019 free agency period winds to a close. Below are some additional reports regarding signings for the Jazz, Magic, Thunder, and Wizards:

  • According to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders, the Jazz gave Stanton Kidd a $250K guarantee on his 2019/20 salary. The guarantee for William Howard is only $50K, but jumps to $250K if he remains on the roster through the first game of the regular season.
  • Per Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, Michael Carter-Williams’ one-year deal with the Magic is a fully-guaranteed, veteran’s minimum contract.
  • The Thunder signed big man Mike Muscala to a two-year, $4.31MM deal with a player option for the second season, reports Michael Scotto of The Athletic. A minimum-salary arrangement for Muscala, a six-year veteran, equals $4,311,628, so that’s what his contract figures to be given the Thunder’s cap situation.
  • The Wizards used part of their mid-level exception to sign Justin Robinson, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports that the rookie point guard inked a three-year deal with a $250K guarantee in year one. His first-year salary is also $988,310, $90K more than what would have been permitted had he been signed with the minimum-salary exception.

Alec Burks Signs With Warriors

JULY 11: Burks has officially put pen to paper on his deal with the Warriors, the team announced on its Twitter feed.

JULY 8: After initially reaching an agreement with the Thunder early in free agency, guard Alec Burks will instead sign a one-year contract with the Warriors, agent JR Hensley tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As Charania explains (via Twitter), since Burks and Mike Muscala agreed to sign with the Thunder before the Paul George trade developed, Oklahoma City allowed both players to re-evaluate their situations, if they so chose. Muscala remains committed to the Thunder, but Burks will head to Golden State instead of OKC.

“Alec was extremely appreciative about how the Thunder handled the situation and he’s looking forward to his new opportunity,” Hensley told Charania.

A former lottery pick, Burks is a career 35.5% three-point shooter and can defend perimeter players, so he figures to become part of Golden State’s wing rotation. Last season, he appeared in a total of 64 games for the Jazz, Cavaliers, and Kings, averaging 8.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, and 2.0 APG in 21.5 minutes per contest.

While terms of Burks’ deal weren’t reported, it will almost certainly be a minimum-salary deal, given the Warriors’ cap constraints.

Thunder Sign Mike Muscala

JULY 10: The Thunder have officially signed Muscala, the team announced today in a press release.

As we relayed earlier this week, Oklahoma City gave Muscala the opportunity to reconsider his options after the team agreed to trade away Paul George. However, the big man decided to remain committed to OKC.

JUNE 30: The Thunder have agreed to a deal with free agent forward Mike Muscala, his agent, Sean Kennedy of Excel Sports Management, tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Muscala, a 6’11” floor-spacer, is set to bring some much-needed shooting to Oklahoma City in the frontcourt next season. He split last year with Sixers and Lakers, averaging seven points per game on 35% shooting from behind-the-arc.

Oklahoma City also worked to secure a commitment with free agent center Nerlens Noel on Sunday, but Noel has since backed out of the agreement, according to Wojnarowski. It’s not clear if the team’s deal with Muscala will impacts its willingness to bring back Noel.

[UPDATE: Noel has reached a new agreement with the Thunder]

Muscala has made stops with Atlanta, Philly, Los Angeles, and now Oklahoma City across his six-year career.

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, LeBron, Walton, Bullock

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have been grouped together over the last two years as the top decision-makers in the Lakers‘ front office, but Pelinka won’t follow Johnson out the door following Magic’s resignation.

League sources tell ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the Lakers’ general manager will keep his job — if anything, Pelinka’s power will grow, Shelburne adds. That doesn’t necessarily mean the the franchise won’t seek out a new president of basketball operations, but after being caught off guard by Johnson’s announcement, the Lakers sound prepared to enter the offseason with Pelinka running the show.

Johnson revealed during his impromptu press conference on Tuesday night that he hadn’t informed owner Jeanie Buss of his decision to resign before announcing it publicly, and Buss wasn’t the only one surprised by the news. Shelburne reports that Pelinka also didn’t know it was coming and that LeBron James was “stunned” by the decision. However, LeBron stands behind Buss and the Lakers’ front office, a source tells Shelburne.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Head coach Luke Walton participated in exit meetings with players on Wednesday, sources tell Shelburne. That doesn’t mean that Walton is safe, but all indications are that he has a better chance of retaining his job with Johnson out of the picture.
  • Asked today about his level of interest in returning to the Lakers in free agency this summer, Reggie Bullock responded, “Very high. I love this city” (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times).
  • With little else to play for as the season neared an end, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was auditioning for his next NBA job down the stretch, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. “Man, I’m just out there playing,” Caldwell-Pope said earlier this week. “Yes, I’ll be looking for a job for next season, but my job right now is to play my best basketball for the Lakers and then we’ll see where things stand.” KCP enjoyed his best stretch of the season in the final month, averaging 19.9 PPG in his last 16 games, including 23.3 PPG in the last seven.
  • While Lakers fans may have been frustrated by the deadline trade that saw Mike Muscala acquired for Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley, Muscala hasn’t exactly had the time of his life since the deal either, writes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. “I guess these last few games have gone well for us, but I’m still kinda disappointed with how I played,” the veteran big man said. “…It’s kind of been a frustrating season for me, but there were still some opportunities. So I gotta focus on that. Injuries are a part of the game. You never want to use that as an excuse. I’ve always dealt with ankle injuries, and I know how to deal with them.”

Details On The Failed KCP-Jabari Parker Swap

The Lakers had a tentative deal in place earlier this season to acquire Jabari Parker and send Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Beasley to the Bulls, a source tell Bill Oram of The Athletic. ESPN previously reported that the two teams discussed swapping Parker and KCP.

Caldwell-Pope would have had to agree to the deal, since he re-signed with the Lakers on a one-year contract, giving him the right to veto any trade. The deal was not signed off over the weekend leading up to Anthony Davis‘ public trade request and the Bulls were stuck in limbo for several days. Many within the league viewed Davis’ request as a call for the Lakers to trade for him. The Bulls subscribed to that notion and moved onto other trade discussions.

Parker was eventually sent to the Wizards in the Otto Porter Jr. deal, while KCP remains on the Lakers’ roster. Beasley was dealt to the Clippers along with Ivica Zubac and ultimately waived.

In Beasley’s case, the deal can partially be attributed to a locker room flair-up with coach Luke Walton. Walton wanted Beasley to play more unselfishly; Beasley, along with teammate JaVale McGee, challenged the request.

The Lakers ended up netting Mike Muscala in the Beasley-Zubac trade. Team president Magic Johnson and GM Rob Pelinka had watched Muscala score 17 points during a spirited Sixers win over the Lakers just days prior and some within the league believe that single performance inspired the front office to make the deal.

Lakers Notes: Ball, Trades, Walton

Before finding himself sidelined for the remainder of the season, Lonzo Ball showcased his ability on defense, something that’s winning over some of his doubters.

“He’s an impact player on that side of the ball,” a Western Conference executive tells Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. “I’m surprised he’s that good defensively. Coming out of UCLA, that was a question.”

Pincus notes that Ball and LeBron James shared the floor in 34 games this season, winning 20 of those contests. Over a full season, that pace would put the Lakers in the middle of the playoff picture instead of the gutter where Los Angeles currently resides.

The defense is there but the offense is still a work in progress for Ball. Pincus argues the point guard must add a reliable three-pointer to his arsenal in order to take the next step in the evolution in his game.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Ball seems destined to be included in an Anthony Davis-to the-Lakers trade, but if that deal never occurs, the point guard would fit well alongside a potential free agent signing such as Kyrie Irving, Pincus argues (in the same piece). Ball has the size to guard opposing shooting guards, which would take a burden off of someone like Irving.
  • Poor shooting is the Lakers‘ biggest issue, Bill Oram of The Athletic contends. The front office attempted to correct this deficiency at the trade deadline by acquiring Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala in a pair of deals. Bullock has made just 39.2% of his shots from behind the arc since coming to the Lakers. Muscala has made just 26.3% while barely seeing the floor.
  • Luke Walton will likely take the fall for the Lakers‘ struggles this season but Oram (in the same piece) argues that the coach is putting players in position to be successful. The team is making just 35.5% of “wide open” three-pointers, which ranks last in the league.“ We’ve had so many 3s where it could be dagger [and force] timeouts,” Rondo said. “We haven’t capitalized on those yet.”

Lakers Notes: Simmons, Hart, Ball, Zubac

The Lakers released a statement stating that the Sixers had sought their permission for floor leader Ben Simmons to speak with team president Magic Johnson, Dave McMenamin of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia emailed the Lakers in November, according to the statement, asking if Simmons could speak with Johnson about his Hall of Fame career. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka subsequently told Sixers GM Elton Brand that Johnson could only do that with Philadelphia’s written pre-approval. That was the end of the matter, the release adds. The league has launched an investigation to determine if any communication between the parties violated league rules.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Guard Josh Hart received a PRP injection to treat tendinitis in his right knee, according to a team press release. Hart will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, the release adds. Hart didn’t play in blowout losses against Indiana and Philadelphia and only lasted eight scoreless minutes against Boston.
  • Lonzo Ball isn’t considered a defensive specialist but the Lakers have missed him at that end of the court, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times notes. The Lakers’ defensive rating is the third-worst in the league in the nine games since Ball was sidelined by a severe ankle sprain. “He allows us to switch a lot,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “If they want to run any pick and roll minus the center, the 1-5 pick and roll, we can just switch it. And we feel confident Lonzo can guard most of the other players there. We have Lonzo picking up full-court the other team’s points guard. He’s great at instincts, getting deflections.”
  • Trading young center Ivica Zubac to the Clippers to ‘rent’ power forward Mike Muscala doesn’t make much sense, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report argues. Zubac could have been an inexpensive, long-term contributor for the Lakers, Pincus continues. He would have been a restricted free agent with a modest cap hold of $1.9 million. Muscala’s cap hold is $9.5MM and he might not be any more productive than Zubac would have been the rest of this season.
  • LeBron James claims the reason he drafted Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis for his All-Star team had nothing to do with recruiting, according to another Ganguli story. “That’s all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport,” he said. “It’s all good and well and dandy, but for me I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available.”