Atlanta Hawks center Mike Muscala — at least for now, he is — recently bought a house, got engaged and is about to get paid, starting sometime after the NBA’s traditional free-agency period begins late Friday night.
“And July 1 is my birthday,” he said. “Everything is happening all at once, it seems like.”
It’s a good time to be him. The former Roseville High School and Bucknell standout is about to turn 26 and into an unrestricted free agent in a league that dearly values big men who can shoot three-pointers.
A second-round draft pick in 2013 who started his pro career in Spain, Muscala has never been through what he is about to experience in his first 3½ NBA seasons in Atlanta. The approaching free-agency period could have left him with sleepless nights, were it not for his own three-day youth camp that concludes Thursday at Concordia University in St. Paul.
When asked if he’s still sleeping well as the clock ticks toward 11 p.m. Central time Friday, Muscala said Wednesday while teaching 60 participants: “With this camp, I am. I slept like a rock last night, except for the storm.”
Muscala himself attended youth basketball camps once upon a time, including ones run by the Timberwolves, Gustavus Adolphus College and former Wolves guard Chris Carr, but never imagined he would end up where he is now.
“I lost the MVP award at one of them to one of these kids, too,” he said. “I forget his name, but I always remember that.”
Last summer, Muscala watched fellow Minnesotans Jon Leuer and Cole Aldrich sign free-agent contracts. Leuer reached a four-year, $42 million deal with Detroit.
“It was very good to him,” Muscala said. “It’s an exciting time to be in the NBA.”
Aldrich signed a three-year, $22 million deal with the Wolves.
Now in a summer that likely won’t be quite as lucrative as last summer, it is Muscala’s time, whether he returns to Atlanta or starts anew elsewhere. He averaged career highs of 6.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 41.8 percent three-point shooting in 2016-17. He earned $1 million last season and has made almost $2.8 million in his NBA career so far, but now he is due for a big raise.
“I’ve learned a lot, been through some ups and downs, but it has all led to this point,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do now to change anything. Obviously, I loved my time in Atlanta. I would love to be back there. I just have to see what happens.”
For now, he will watch what transpires across the league in the coming days and wait for his agent’s phone to ring. On Wednesday, the first domino to the free-agency period tumbled when the Los Angeles Clippers traded superstar point guard and potential free-agent Chris Paul to Houston.
“It happens every year,” Muscala said. “The big names start to go and it changes the landscape.”
In 2013, Muscala was the 44th player drafted after he grew to 6-11 and improved every year in high school and college. This time around, he says he has improved every year as a professional who can stretch defenses with his shooting.
“It has never been necessarily about the money to me,” he said. “It’s crazy how basketball can change from high school to college to the NBA and what you work on, what you’re compensated for. I’ve found if you do things the right way — if you play the right way, if you work on your game, if you’re a good teammate — you’ll be rewarded for it. That’s what I’ve been telling the kids here at camp, too. The little details do matter.”
This time, he will wait for the right offer, not for his name to be called.
“But it feels the same way I felt before the draft,” he said. “I felt like I did all I could to this point. Now there’s nothing more I can do other than see what comes my way. After that, I’m excited to get back to work.”
It’ll be a long wait Friday to 11 p.m. for Muscala and fiancée Abbie Koopote, who plan to spend summers together in their new Cannon Falls, Minn., home no matter which NBA team eventually comes calling with the right offer.
“We’ll be up,” she said.