In their first game since the NBA trade deadline, the Boston Celtics took on the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden on Friday night. With Jaylen Brown (maxillary facial fracture), Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain) and Al Horford (right knee swelling) all out against Charlotte, trade deadline acquisition Mike Muscala suited up for his first minutes in a Celtics uniform at TD Garden.
The sharpshooting big did not disappoint, chipping in 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, all of them coming from beyond the arc, and one rebound, two assists, and a block in just over 15 minutes of floor time. A career 38% from three, Muscala was as advertised, finding open looks again and again as defense collapsed on other players like Jayson Tatum. Muscala’s first bucket came off a pass from Tatum as the defense swarmed him under the hoop; Tatum found Muscala wide open in the corner, and “Moose” knocked down the open look with ease.
As an organization, the Celtics notoriously have a lot of jersey numbers unavailable. In fact, they actually lead the league in retired numbers with twenty-five since the team’s establishment in 1964. It’s impacted a lot of free agents and trade acquisitions in the past; Evan Fournier wore 94 in his brief stint in Boston. Dennis Schroder chose 71 based on a poll he ran on his Instagram story, and Blake Griffin is rocking 91 like he’s an NFL defensive end.
In Mike Muscala’s case, he chose 57 to honor his late mother who born in 1957 and passed before the season began. Up until he joined the Thunder, Muscala wore 31, which was retired by the Celtics for Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell in 2003, and his number 33 worn in OKC is certainly not available either.
Mike Muscala says he chose the number 57 to honor his mother (born in 1957) who passed away just before the season started.
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 11, 2023
Before the game, Muscala said, “I got in late last night .. I was grateful for the opportunity. I loved my time in (OKC), great organization. Fun to be a part of that group throughout the years .. I’ve heard so many good things about (Boston). I’m excited to get to know the city more and the fans.” If Friday night was any indication, Muscala will soon be a fan favorite coming off the bench.
“I think everybody’s role changes depending on what team they’re on,” said Joe Mazzulla on Mike Muscala pregame. “He’s played for good teams, played for good coaches. He’s shown the ability to shoot the ball and make good decisions. And I think he’s relatively versatile on the defensive end.” The former Thunder forward was also familiar with Al Horford, as the two were teammates together in Atlanta and Oklahoma City.
“We just can see how important he can be for us,” said Jayson Tatum. “A big body. Long arms. Obviously can stretch the floor…He can shoot with the best of them.” Above all else, Muscala’s shooting will do wonders for Boston’s bench unit, as he can be thrown into lots of different lineups because of his ability to space the floor. It’s going to also allow Joe Mazzulla to give Al Horford more rest, since Muscala can play alongside all of the other centers on the roster. With his addition, the Celtics have added some more shooting, more versatility, and more flexibility when it comes to their bench rotations.
At such a low cost to acquire at the deadline, Mike Muscala made an immediate impact for a Celtics team looking for some more center depth and insurance as Al Horford and Robert Williams battle injuries. The main hurdle that this team needs to worry about as they contend for a championship is health, and adding another capable player to the roster can only help with rest and load management. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he can shoot the lights out. Here’s hoping we see more of the newest Celtic on Sunday, as Boston takes on the Memphis Grizzlies, 2 pm EST.