ATLANTA – Just for the record, Atlanta center and Roseville’s own Mike Muscala didn’t slip the NBA schedule-maker any cash, not last season or this one, either.
“You would think I had, right?” said Muscala, who scored 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 3-for 3 on three-pointers, in Wednesday’s 92-84 loss to the Wolves.
Last season, the Hawks played the Timberwolves at Target Center the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, which enabled him to spend the holiday at home in Minnesota.
This time, the two teams played in Atlanta on Wednesday with the rematch Monday at Target Center. That enables him to spend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family after Atlanta plays at Denver on Friday.
“I’ve been lucky,” said Muscala, who is a teammate with fellow Minnesotan Kris Humphries. “It has worked out well.”
This will be Muscala’s first Christmas back home since he played at Bucknell four seasons ago. A valuable reserve big man who’s aimed toward a rich free-agent contract this summer, he helped turn the game’s momentum with his energy and effort after the Wolves led 15-4 early. Muscala returns to Minnesota in summer for his basketball camp for fourth- through ninth-graders at Concordia University in St. Paul. This past summer, he made a rare return to the Minnesota State Fair, a trip with his sister Maddie in which he ate nearly everything.
“Cheese curds, Sweet Martha’s [cookies], Australian battered potatoes, corn dogs,” he said. … I tried some new stuff, some fried alligator. I wasn’t a fan of that.
“I’ve wanted to go back there for a while. I used to go to the fair all the time when I was growing up, but the schedule has been tough.”
Hawks center Dwight Howard missed his second consecutive game because of back tightness, but he said it was much improved at the team’s morning shoot.
Without him, Atlanta once again went small, with Paul Millsap at center and Kyle Korver at power forward. The Hawks used that lineup to win at Oklahoma City 110-108 on Monday.
The NBA is partnering with the Senegalese SEED project non-profit group that helped produce Wolves forward Gorgui Dieng and will open an elite training academy in his home country, starting next year. It’s the NBA’s first of its kind in Africa and sixth globally.
“It’s important for all Africans to come there and learn the game and try to reach the same level as the kids here in the U.S. do,” Dieng said. “The talent is there, absolutely. They just need to learn the right way to play the game.”
• The Wolves completed their two-game series with Eastern Conference foe New York by playing twice in three days three weeks ago. Now they’ll finish their series with Atlanta by playing twice in six days.
“It’s not easier, but you’re a little more familiar,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said.
• Budenholzer, a longtime San Antonio assistant coach, attended Sunday’s retirement ceremony for Spurs superstar Tim Duncan. He said, “You get selfish for a second and think how lucky you are to be around him for 15, 16 years.”