MUSCALA PLAYED 47 games for the Sixers and another 17 for the Los Angeles Lakers, while Schröder was a super-sub off the bench for the Thunder, averaging 14.7 points per game, the second most by any bench player in OKC history. What the Thunder lacked in the reserve group to complement the hyper-speed drives by its point guard, however, was a big man who could stretch the floor from the center position.
On the first night of free agency on July 1, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti was in Minneapolis, at Muscala’s home. Presti was there to recruit him to come to Oklahoma, reunite with Schröder and give the Thunder a 3-point shooter and a savvy, well-rounded reserve center for Head Coach Billy Donovan to utilize. It didn’t take long for coaches and staff to recognize the ready-made connection during workouts and downtime alike.
“Besides the basketball piece, they’ve got a very good relationship off the floor,” Donovan said. “There’s a great deal of mutual respect and admiration there. They both genuinely like each other as people.”
The friends spent time together this summer even before coming to Oklahoma for training camp. Muscala attended Schröder’s wedding in Braunschweig, Germany, in late July, making his first trip to the hometown that tested his friend and sharpened him into a point guard prodigy. As a statement of the forging powers of that crucible, the wedding was held in the arena where Schröder used to play as a young pro.
“It was pretty emotional. I was really happy for him,” Muscala said. “He’s like a brother to me.”
In-season, they travel smaller distances to support one another. Instead of going through post-practice shooting with players in the same position groups, Muscala and Schröder make sure to find the same basket to get extra shots up together, mimicking the grueling hours they spent together chasing their common dream.
“He’s my guy,” Schröder said of Muscala. “I know almost everything about him, how he wants to play, how he wants to pick and roll, pick and pop.”
Just as Presti envisioned, Donovan has linked Schröder and Muscala in the Thunder’s second group, giving them an opportunity to play the style that they mastered in Atlanta.
“It’s been pretty great,” Schröder continued. “We were talking about it a year ago, how nice it would be if we played again together on one team. Now, we’re in OKC playing again together.”