Mike Muscala has made it to the NBA — after a quick detour through Spain.
The Hawks signed the second-round draft pick Thursday, two days after a buyout agreement was reached with the center’s Spanish League team. Muscala joins a Hawks team desperate for help after injuries decimated its big-man corps.
Muscala played 20 games for Blusens Monbus Obradoiro of the ACB League in Spain. He was in the midst of a fine season — with a league-leading 7.8 rebounds and 14.6 points per game — when the Hawks called.
“We are really excited that Mike was available to join our team,” Hawks general manager Danny Ferry said in a statement released by the team. “We’ve closely monitored Mike and his progress throughout the ACB season. Coach (Moncho) Fernandez and his Obradoiro CAB club did an excellent job with his continued development.
“Due to our current injuries, Mike’s representatives presented the concept of Mike joining us for the remainder of the season. With our roster situation and his strong play, we felt now was a good time to add Mike to our program.”
Among other injuries, the Hawks lost starter Al Horford for the season after surgery to repair a torn right pectoral muscle. Pero Antic has missed the past 16 games with a stress fracture in his right ankle. Gustavo Ayon has missed the past five games with a right shoulder injury. The Hawks have been without power forward Paul Millsap the past three games three games with a bruised right knee.
The Hawks signed center Dexter Pittman to a 10-day contract Saturday. The Hawks waived him Thursday to create a roster spot. Pittman appeared in two games and had three rebounds in three minutes.
Muscala, who will wear No. 31, will practice with the Hawks on Friday. The team, which did not practice Thursday, begins a five-game western trip in Phoenix on Sunday.
Muscala, (6-foot-11, 230 pounds) was acquired by the Hawks with the 44th pick via a trade with the Mavericks, in last year’s draft. The Hawks continued to hold his NBA rights as he played in Spain to continue his development. Muscala joins first-round pick guard Dennis Schroder on the roster. The team’s other first-round pick, center Lucas Nogueira, is in Spain.
Muscala, 22, played five games for the Hawks’ Las Vegas Summer League team and averaged 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in 18.4 minutes.
“Mike was the hardest worker I ever coached,” Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. “He is an unbelievably passionate guy and is intense and driven. My gut is that he is going to do anything and everything to be success with Hawks and as an NBA player.”
A four-year letterman at Bucknell, Muscala finished as the school’s all-time scoring leader (2,036 points) and ranked second in rebounds (1,093) and blocks (271). He was named the Patriot League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. He was first-team All-Patriot League and an honorable-mention Associated Press All-American after averaging 18.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists in 31.7 minutes in 34 games. His final season, he led the Bison in scoring and rebounds and was the assist leader until the final game.
Muscala would be the first player from Bucknell to appear in a regular-season NBA game.
According to Paulsen, Muscala can shoot from the outside, even to the 3-point line. Spacing the floor is a system staple of first-year coach Mike Budenholzer.
“He can really shoot it,” Paulsen said. “Mike and the other coaches wanted him to shoot it more. He was such a dominant inside player, who could score, rebound and draw fouls. I probably didn’t have him shoot it enough.”
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