19 minutes and five seconds.
That's how long Mike Muscala, as of Monday night, has played in the NBA.
Boys that play in the driveway, shooting hoops in imaginary playoff games, they dream about greatness, but they'd take 19 minutes and five seconds.
Mike Muscala is one of those boys, one who grew up dreaming of playing in the NBA. When the Atlanta Hawks (sort-of) drafted him with the #44 pick, no doubt Mike had to feel like he was closer to his dream.
Then, there was summer league.
Summer league can be unfair to big men, as the glorified scrimmages lend itself to isolation heavy guard play, leaving big men like Muscala struggling to fit in.
"One thing you should know about the summer league," Muscala laughs, "is that the game is a lot less team-oriented."
During the league, it was clear that Mike needed some work, specifically to his build up his 6'11, 230 pound frame and to get used to the speed and competition that would be prevalent in the NBA.
After summer league, Mike's agent, Sean Kennedy of Excel Sports Management, came to him with some options for team playing overseas. Muscala says he ways never given a timeline and that he was prepared to play the entire season and prepare for summer league.
It was expert advice and it paid off quickly as Muscala, as documented on this site all season long, played very well for Obradoiro (Rio Natura Monbus) and was rapidly embraced by their fanbase.
Last week the Hawks were losing big men, and games, and decided it was time to seek out Muscala and buy out his contract. The effort came soon after the trade deadline, which saw the Hawks make a single move, a facilitation of the Clippers divesting themselves of Antawn Jamison by using the Hawks' minimum player exception.
Speculation has it that the Hawks used the cash gained from that deal (or some of it) to use for the Muscala buyout. We followed throughout last week as the rumors began to surface from our friends overseas as Muscala's hard work paid off with a call from the Hawks.
Muscala told us it was the good help through the transition from Kennedy, his roommate and best friend Peter, his Mom, Dad and stepdad that helped him through all the craziness.
When the news came that he was going to be a Hawk, finally, after the NBA seemed so far away, he was talking to his dad, and then called his Mom and stepdad to share the news.
Even as he was realizing his dream of joining the NBA, Muscala was thankful for the team and fans that supported him throughout the year.
"It was tough to leave that team -- the city and the fans were special," Muscala confirms. "The fans for our team was the best. The experience was good for my development because, playing once a week, these were high pressure games."
Despite losing Muscala among the many big men (like the Hawks) that has been either turned away or injured for Obradoiro, they won yesterday -- a result that Muscala was happy to hear about afterwards.
Discussing what is different now, Muscala says, "My mind set is different. I feel more well prepared and more mentally prepared, patient, taking the right shots."
The details aren't yet known, but Mark Deeks of ShamSports reported on Twitter that Muscala was signed through 2017, which called to mind the 4 year, 3.6 million dollar contract Chandler Parsons got as an early second round pick from the Houston Rockets, from which the Rockets have received excellent production through Parsons.
When asked if this arrangement was intentional and if he could relax a little and settle in knowing he had some security, Muscala said, "It's all relative. It's a business, you have to remember that. You should never relax. It's good to know that they see you as important."
Muscala said that, "My agent showed me the proposal and said there's guaranteed money and it's the NBA." No other words were needed to get Mike over to Atlanta.
Mike hasn't had much time to settle in, as the Hawks embarked on the current five game Western road trip that won't see him get back to the ATL until very early on March 11th.
He was immediately, and necessarily, thrust into the rotation to play those 19 minutes and five seconds and showed a nose for the basketball, always ending up around wherever the ball was. He also showed excellent verticality defensively and a shot-blocker's instinct. This led to two blocks, five rebounds and four points in his debut against the Phoenix Suns.
"It felt good out there," Muscala admitted, "but we didn't get the win. Going out there, I thought there was going to be more butterflies -- there were some, but not as much as I thought."
Regarding the speed of the game Muscala said, "Well, Phoenix plays so fast, you have to work to get back in transition on defense. But the half court wasn't as quick as in Spain due to a lot more isolation and the floor is more spaced out."
After summer league, he got to see a lot of the sites in Atlanta, but admitted he will need recommendations from Peachtree Hoops readers for local restaurants that bring the best that the ATL has to offer the newest Hawk and Nike shoe wearer (Kobe 8s - so light, he says).