It’s official, Mike Muscala is an Atlanta Hawk. The young big man from Minnesota was officially introduced yesterday by the Hawks and is expected to join the team in Phoenix for Sunday’s matchup with the Suns.
Mike is stepping in as the Hawks continue to weather through a stretch of injuries that have left the team with only two healthy front court players, Mike Scott and Elton Brand. The absences of Paul Millsap, Gustavo Ayon, Pero Antic and Al Horford are leaving an opportunity for Muscala and a hype is building around the 2013 second-round pick as another hard working player to add to a roster that has already proved to show an admirable desire to keep fighting in each and every game this season.
The question that will continue to be pondered as his debut approaches is just how much of Muscala are fans going to see as the Hawks enter the last two months of the regular season?
Hawks fans had their first chance to see Mike in a Hawks’ uniform back in July during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. He appeared in five games during the short schedule and provided a modest 5.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1 block in 18.4 minutes a game. His performances failed to grab the attention of many fans, who were pulled in by the wonderful chemistry that developed between Lucas Noguiera and Dennis Schröder in such a short period of time. Mike’s future with the team became a question of if he was even part of it as only six days after the Hawks finished their summer league campaign, Pero Antic emerged as the newest Hawk and Mike then signed to play in Spain only a few days later.
The Hawks moved forward into the season and fans slowly fell in love with the proud Macedonian, meanwhile Muscala began what would become an impressive campaign overseas, which was outlined last week. Now, the Bucknell alum will be the first to ever represent his school in the NBA, as only two other players have ever been drafted from the Pennsylvania University and neither ever registered a minute in the NBA.
Muscala is joining the Hawks in a bit of tough position as they have lost 10 of the last 11 games and have been forced to play Elton Brand, who is in his 15th NBA season, over 40 minutes in two of those games. Mike will likely see a significant number of minutes from the start as Paul Millsap and Pero Antic near their returns to the court, but with how important Hawks’ GM Danny Ferry has valued the rookie contract structure of his players, bringing Mike over and starting the clock on his rookie contract just to fill a hole for a few games is unlikely.
The team could be preparing for the worst for one of the recent injuries to Pero Antic or Gustavo Ayon, or Muscala may just be insurance should any of the Hawks’ frontcourt see further injury going forward. How much time he will see is hard to gauge at this point, but it should be somewhere around 15 minutes a night, reaching nearly 20 in the next few games with Millsap still questionable to play and Pero Antic still out. Brand is expected to continue to start as inserting Muscala into the starting five may prove to be difficult as Mike will experience an adjustment period to the NBA. He has been described as a better fit for the power forward spot in the NBA, but at 6’11” he is capable at seeing minutes at the center position, similarly to how Antic was used before his injury back in January.
Overall, the wait to see Mike Muscala debut will soon be over as the Hawks continue their stretch of six straight games on the road. Mike’s first few chances to play will prove to be challenging as the Hawks will see five Western Conference teams in the coming days, four of which — Suns, Trail Blazers, Warriors and Clippers — are currently holding spots in the West playoff race.