After the All-Star Break, Thunder veteran center Mike Muscala only played in one game, for 12 minutes and 14 seconds. He was in the midst of the highest scoring season of his career, averaging 9.7 points while shooting 37.0 percent from three-point range. After Gilgeous-Alexander went down with an injury and it became clear the right thing to do was to invest in playing time for younger frontcourt players like Roby and Moses Brown, Muscala spent much of his time on the bench, standing and cheering, leading and teaching.
After a couple of months of humbling his own ambitions for the sake of the organization’s goals, Muscala wasn’t ready to ship off for the summer. Instead, the 29-year-old got emotional as he talked about his plan to spend time in Oklahoma Citythis offseason and how much he’ll miss his teammates and the bonds they built within the Thunder’s walls this past season.
“I’m grateful for it. It helped me a lot as a man and as a player,” said Muscala, holding back tears. “I just feel like the organization’s values and the fans here and everything, it just aligns with what I feel. It made it just really gratifying to come in every day and go to work — even this season, to have that to do when so many people were struggling with COVID and all that. Just even the opportunity to play basketball meant a lot to me.”
Towards the end of the year, when the COVID vaccinations arrived, Thunder players went together to get their shots, leaning on one another in that highly anticipated moment. In a year of discomfort, one that challenged families, businesses and communities to stay connected, Thunder players and staff remained grateful and kept their minds in the present. They did all they could to truly be a team.