PHOENIX — Luis Scola was not surprised that he became perhaps the best player yet to fall victim to the amnesty process.
The Rockets after all informed him shortly after the draft that he did not fit their future direction.
However, Scola did not expect the Suns to place the winning bid for his services after teams like Dallas and Cleveland promised him a strong amnesty bid whereby he heard nary a whisper out of Phoenix.
“I kind of didn’t expect anything from Phoenix, so when they called me I was a little surprised,” Scola said.
Shortly after hearing the news Scola was immediately immersed in a three-hour practice with the Argentinean national team, but the more he thought about it the more he realized Phoenix was “a great situation” for him.
“We’ve got a good team, I’ve got the chance to play with Goran again, and I always liked Gortat’s game,” Scola said on a conference call from Spain, where he’s prepping for the Olympics. “He can be a big help for me. I think it’s a good situation, I felt from the calls that we had from the people in the Phoenix Suns organization that they’re happy with me and they want me there, and that’s a good thing. I’m happy, I’m excited the more I think about it the more I want to go there to play.”
Head coach Alvin Gentry sees Scola as “an incredibly smart player. He’s a tough-minded player, great guy in the locker room, a great guy at practice. … I just think he’s someone that can really help us on the court but also help us in the locker room.”
That last point cannot be underrated for a Suns team that has lost locker room leaders Steve Nash and Grant Hill this offseason and figures to enter the season with no other rotation player in his 30s.
Scola described himself as a leader by example, and he’s the kind of true professional expected to play an important role that could be a stabilizing force in the locker room.
With the Suns intent on not becoming a “rudderless” young team like so many others in this league, it surely makes sense to mix in a vet like Scola all the while the rest of the roster undergoes a youthful transformation.
Scola was ecstatic that one of those young acquisitions was former Rocket Goran Dragic, a player Scola watched develop during his year and a half in Houston.
“I was really happy that find out I was going to play with Goran again,” Scola said. “Goran is a great player. When he started playing great I was really happy for him. He helped us win a lot of games, and I feel really confident playing with him. I was sad when he left Houston because I was there at the time, and I was really happy when I found out I was going to play with him again. Yeah, Goran was definitely one of the positive things.”
That point guard-power forward chemistry could be huge for Scola knowing how tough it can be to adjust to a new team. Scola’s presence should make Dragic that much more comfortable as well since he played with the big man during his best run in the league after also playing with many current Suns back when he was Nash’s caddy.
Scola does not expect a difficult adjustment period, though, because he is pretty comfortable with who he is on the basketball court at this point in his career.
He’s going to use his crafty interior game and toughness to be a menace in the paint, and he will pull out any trick in the book to gain an advantage on his opponent. As John Hollinger pointed out, Scola enjoyed a career season at age 30 when he averaged a 18.3-8.2, and since he has always relied on skill more than athleticism there is reason to believe he will remain effective through the length of his contract as he ages.
“I bring what I have always done on the basketball court,” Scola said. “I am not a young guy, I’m 32 years old so my game is pretty much what it is right now. Hopefully I can continue to be productive along the years. What you saw in my career is pretty much what I am right now. The same things that I brought to Houston is what I’m bringing to Phoenix.”
Now playing for a team that has lacked post scoring in recent years, the Suns would be thrilled to receive that same kind of production from their new veteran.
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