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Three takeaways from Oklahoma City’s exit interviews

Twelve hours removed from Oklahoma City’s regular-season finale, the team rallied together one final time to take questions from the media. After a full eight hours of Zoom calls and name calling, here are the highlights:

Mark Daigneault loves the franchise

Mark Daigneault is no stranger to Thunder basketball Daigneault started his tenure in Bricktown back in 2014 as the Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Blue, ever since he’s been up-and-running. Daigneault climbed the rungs of the G-League ladder until snagging an assistant role under Billy Donovan last year, after he packed his bags to Chi-Town, Daigneault stepped in.

Before Daigneault debuted as the Head Coach of the Thunder, he was practically a no-name. Outside of G-League circles, Daigneault was a mystery man, no kodak moments, no national attention, and a blank Wikipedia page, even Charles Barkley was unaware of his existence.

As soon as the season started — none of that mattered, and as shown in the exit interviews — he’s ingrained in the system.

Daigneault started his presser by listing out a line of people to thank, whether it was the fans, players, executives, or his coaching staff, he made sure to give them praise.

When asked on guards Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kenrich Williams, Daigneault noted their major influences they’ve placed on the franchise.

In regards to SGA’s injury status, Daigneault mentioned, “He will have a full offseason to get better.” In that span however; team Canada will look to embark on the Olympics, and Shai would be the centerpiece. When asked on his potential playing status, Daigneault left the ball in his court. “He’s going to prioritize getting healthy. As far as the National team, that’ll be his decision. He’ll make a decision on that shortly.”

Mike Muscala also loves the franchise… a lot

Mark Daigneault’s opening remarks should make it a foregone conclusion he loves the franchise more than anyone, I mean, he’s even the head coach. That assumption given to Daigneault is a just one, probably even expected, but the heart-felt speech Mike Muscala delivered gives him a run for his money.

In Muscala’s 90-second speech, the forward expressed his gratitude for the Thunder, even getting emotional, explaining why he wished to stay with the organization.

“Coming to OKC, I’m grateful for it. It [Joining the team] helped me a lot, as a man, and as a player. I just feel like the organization’s values and the fans here and everything align with what I feel… “Whatever happens this offseason [happens]. Like I said, I’d love to be back. I’ll always be a Thunder fan and rooting for the Thunder.”

Mike Muscala

Muscala, age 29, was expected to be traded from the Thunder on the trade deadline, but with no deal done, he stuck on the team the full-length. Muscala was pulled from play in mid-March, missing the Thunder’s final two months of play, but the big man still partook in team activities, and attended the team’s in-season games.

Muscala will hit unrestricted free agency this upcoming offseason, and with a 37-percent clip from downtown — it is almost certain a flurry of potential contenders may flock his way for help in the frontcourt. Even with those options however; Muscala is still showing loyalty to where he has called home for the last two years.

Times are changing in the frontcourt

All four of Oklahoma City’s prominent frontcourt figures in Al Horford, Tony Bradley, Moses Brown, and Mike Muscala all took their turns with the media throughout the day, and one thing was for sure — the future up front is in the air.

As aforementioned, Mike Muscala will hit the open market this coming offseason, and so will Tony Bradley. When it comes to Moses Brown, his contract is non-guaranteed for the next two seasons, for Horford — he’ll make $53.5M for the next two seasons.

Typically, a tally of two free agents with two under contract should not be any sort of issue. Given Muscala’s commitment to the franchise and Bradley’s restricted free agency status, both can stay under Presti’s wraps long-term. However; it’s not a given that even those under contract will remain.

Al Horford‘s future with the franchise sounds murky at best. Horford played a pivotal mentorship role this season, though at age 34, the timelines may not be aligned. Horford last touched the hardwood on March 24, one day before the NBA trade deadline. It was expected that he’d be dealt on the deadline, but no one bit. Since that point, Horford had been ruled out for younger names in Moses Brown and trade acquisition Tony Bradley.

Now with two years left on his contract, Horford’s role appears to be taken. Horford spoke highly of all his teammates throughout the interview, but when asked about a deal, the veteran articulately addressed the question saying he’d speak with the team.

Tony Bradley only played in 22 games for the Thunder this season, but he made a statement in his chances. Bradley joined the roster following a deadline deal that sent George Hill to Philadelphia, and a pair of seconds to Oklahoma City amongst others. After playing third fiddle almost his whole professional career, Bradley docked a career-high 18.0 minutes with the Thunder recording even more personal bests with averages of 8.7 points and 6.1 rebounds.

Bradley slipped in perfectly as a plug-and-play backup for Oklahoma City. At 23-years-old, Bradley has more potential to grow, but with a questionable jumper and Moses Brown at the helm — he may run loose in free agency.

Bradley was very thankful towards the organizations and the opportunities that sprouted with his induction, but he too doesn’t know what is next.

“I love it here in OKC with the Thunder,” Bradley said. “But I don’t know what the next move will be for me.”

Mike Muscala, as detailed above, is on board for rejoining the Thunder, though at age 29 and a wave a youth rushing through the franchise — his time may also run out.

To the delight of Muscala, Oklahoma City has prided themselves around culture since they relocated in 2008. Nick Collision was the poster boy for Thunder leadership for almost a decade of play. Even as a role player, Collision’s role as a mentor, leader, and at times coach (sorry Scott Brooks) carved him one of the largest gigs on the team, even if it was behind the scenes. Collision’s spirit towards the franchise carved the way for his jersey retirement, the first raising in the ‘Peake. Since then, new Collision’s arose from the groundwork, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams in particular. The bond between those two and the franchise are immeasurable — the problem is, they’re gone now. With the current roster, no one has suited up with Russell Westbrook, their is an identity change in motion. Muscala has not been with the team for ten years, not even three, but his veteran leadership and strong bond with the budding players could hand him a roster spot — though nothing is guarenteed.

Moses Brown sound like an auto-generated 2k name, it probably is. Brown entered the 2020-21 season as an auto-generated name, almost no defined skills, and completely unknown — he changed that.

Brown’s dominant play in the G-League bubble scored himself First Team honors with the Blue, and even better, a three-year contract. Brown played like a video game most of the season, either recording a double-double after 10 minutes, or interfering on his own goal multiple times in a quarter. Needless to say though, his down moments were outweighed by his bright spots — there was a heap of them.

Brown’s deal is non-guaranteed for next season, but as a 21-year-old coming off averages of 8.6 points and 8.9 rebounds, he should be sticking around. Brown even furthered this by stating he’s staying in Oklahoma City to train, all summer long.

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