Mike Muscala’s return to the Atlanta Hawks has been a (very) open secret for almost three weeks. On Tuesday afternoon, though, the Hawks officially announced that the now-veteran big man has re-signed with the organization and Muscala visited with the assembled media.
“I'm really excited to be back to Atlanta,” Muscala said. “This is obviously where I started and where my fiance is from so we're excited to be back.”
The 26-year-old Muscala was greeted with a question about quickly becoming one of the more “senior” players on Atlanta’s roster and, while he certainly isn’t long in the tooth by NBA standards, he appears ready for the challenge.
“It is going to be different,” Muscala stated. “It's exciting. It's a younger team this year but I'm excited for the opportunity and I think, just being back in Atlanta and with coach Bud and my teammates that are back... I'm just excited to get to work. To take it game by game and compete game by game.”
During the 2016-2017 season, Muscala became a firmly entrenched part of the rotation for the Hawks, appearing in 70 games (three starts) and averaging 17.7 minutes per contest. While he has always been a flexible part due to positional versatility, Muscala’s development as a three-point shooter (41.8 percent last season) was instrumental in his overall improvement.
To that end, Muscala was asked about his focus for the off-season when it comes to on-court improvement and he shed light on continued work on the perimeter. “Just continuing to shoot a lot more threes and feel more comfortable and consistent with that,” Muscala explained. “Being able to get to more shots and more one-on-one settings - whether it's in the post or on the perimeter - Being able to do more than making that open shot or that one-move shot.”
“Having one or two moves to go to, not just to score but to be able to pass out of that too. Physically, just being in good shape. Using the time for my body to get stronger and more explosive and having that time where you aren't traveling as much so you can kind of build up that strength and endurance.”
It remains to be seen as to just how much Muscala will be relied on as a top-tier member of the rotation, given the fact that the Hawks added veteran help in Ersan Ilyasova and Dewayne Dedmon. Still, there is little mystery to the fact that Muscala will be on the floor early and often at both center and power forward and, if he is able to maintain his newfound perimeter shooting, that will be a wonderful asset for the Hawks during the upcoming season.
Mike Muscala is a big-time bargain at the reported contract price and, even if he outshines that $5 million annual figure and hits the free agent market again in 2018 (after declining an option), the investment will be worth it on Atlanta’s side. Stay tuned.