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Mike Muscala “very excited” to return to Atlanta Hawks after whirlwind free agency

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Atlanta’s recently re-signed big man reflects on the process.

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks faced a number of intriguing free agency decisions in the summer of 2017. While Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr. landed elsewhere, both Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Muscala were retained and the Hawks clearly made Muscala a top priority in early July.

Muscala, in speaking in podcast form with Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN in Minnesota, recently reflected on his free agency, indicating that the process wasn’t exactly how he envisioned it when compared to the 2016 offseason.

“It was my first experience with it so it was definitely interesting. I think this year's free agency went a lot different than last year's so it was kind of a different experience.... Ultimately, I had a great choice to make and I'm very excited for the next two years.”

Muscala’s two-year, $10 million contract has been widely reported (including on this podcast) to include a second-year player option and the 26-year-old was prompted about the strategy behind that move.

“We'll see. I think my agent, Sean, kind of structured that and thought that was a good idea to put it in there. I'm just looking forward to next season and we'll go from there.”

While Muscala isn’t exactly making “starter money” on his current deal, the former second-round pick has carved out a very solid role based on his versatility and ability to stretch the floor as an improving jump shooter. After knocking down a career-best 41.8 percent of his three-point attempts last season, Muscala isn’t done working on that part of his game, while also being mindful that he isn’t “only” a shooter at this stage.

“Continuing to shoot a lot of threes. I feel good about that. Working out some go-to moves, some things to create my own shot.... Getting in good shape, trying to get stronger, trying to use the time that I have to really work on my body.

The game has changed and I think there is obviously value in a big man that can space the floor.... I still think I can do that but I can also do a good job in pick-and-roll and passing and finishing out of that.”

While Muscala did not directly address specific teams that pursued him in July, Wolfson brings word that the Minnesota Timberwolves (Muscala’s hometown squad), Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat all displayed interest. In the end, though, one of the major takeaways in the 13-minute interview was that Muscala is very pleased to be back in Atlanta and that includes the fact that his fiance (Mike’s wedding is set for July 2018) is from the area.

The Hawks suddenly have a crowded frontcourt with rookie John Collins, Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee and Diamond Stone all in the mix. However, there is certainly big-time value in having Muscala around for at least one additional season and it will be interesting to see how he performs before potentially facing free agency once again in less than 12 months.