The Rockets have longed searched for a power forward who would fill the void Kelvin Cato left a few years back when he was traded to the Magic (along with Steve and Cuttino). Although Kelvin Cato was not the best of players, the one year he had under Van Gundy was very successful; he was a very good defender and provided the toughness the frontline need it. Cato was not the answer the Rockets coveted at power forward, but he was the only option and even though he was challenged offensively, he was still a solid player for the Rockets that lone season.
As a Rockets fan, I’ve endured the pitiful players the Rockets have attempted to fill the power forward role with. Juwan Howard was a solid player but did not provide the toughness and defense needed from the position. Yao Ming is very slow and many times fighting to guard pick and rolls would be extremely tough for the big guy, plus since he would be sent out to guard such plays, many times he was out of position for rebounding the ball. Howard was not the best of rebounders even though he tried. Last season, Chuck Hayes was given the starting role; unfortunately for Hayes, he is challenged offensively and is a mere 6′6, and in the Wild West, we need it a much bigger player who could score as well and not just rebound. Hayes is seen more as an energy guy who comes off the bench and does the “dirty work”.
Yesterday, what did not seem possible happened. Most Rockets fans had given up hope and lost their patience, but Morey actually had a trick up his sleeve. He traded Vassilis Spanoulis, who has repeatedly stated that he will not come back to the states, and acquired Jackie Butler, a player who was stuck to the end of the bench last year but showed promise just two seasons ago under Larry Brown, and Luis Scola, also known as the best player in Europe (plays for Tau Ceramica). At the time the deal did not seem so great. For years Scola has tried to come to the NBA, but his contract buyout has been ridiculous. The Spurs were never in a hurry to bring him over since he plays the same position Tim Duncan plays. Rockets fans certainly did not think Scola was going to come over, but a few hours later an article on chron.com stated Morey’s intentions of bringing Scola to the Rockets this season.
Suddenly, the Rockets seemed to have robbed the Spurs (thank you Dennis Lindsey, we knew you would not forget your roots). For the past twenty four hours, Scola’s agents and the Rockets have been negotiating a deal which would help bring Scola to the states, and most importantly buy out his contract from Tau Ceramica. NBA rules state the Rockets can only contribute 500,000 dollars towards a buy out, therefore the negotiations involve front loading the contract in order to allow Scola to give the money for his buy out. According to chron.com, the deal in place seems to be a reasonable $10 million over the course of three years. An awesome deal for a proven winner.
Now the question is, what will be Luis Scola’s role with the Rockets? As evidenced during the 2007 playoffs, the Rockets have a huge hole in the power forward position. Scola is expected to come to the Rockets ready to compete with Chuck Hayes for the starting power forward slot. Scola’s strengths according to numerous sites I have researched include, solid mid-range game, incredibly good footwork to play in the post, a willing passer, and a gritty defender.
Rick Adelman is going to love working with this player. Adelman’s system consist of a great amount of team work and chemistry. We are not going to have players standing around and waiting for Tracy McGrady to get into the lane hoping to draw defenders so he can kick the ball back out for an open three. Instead, the offense will be ran through the high post, providing a more structured way of giving Tracy easier points along with all the other Rocket guards. Scola and Yao will play huge roles in initiating the offense. If Scola is as good as passer as the scouting reports have suggested, then he is going to give the Rockets a nice option in the high post. His willingness to drive to the basket will give him more options when he plays from the high post.
Another great thing about this signing is Scola’s midrange game. As I mentioned above, expect to see Scola in the high post, therefore if he is unable to find a cutter or an open man in the three point, then he will have the option of taking a dribble and stepping into his jump shot, or simply fake his man and shoot from the free throw line. His defensive intensity will definitely be needed against the big men of the West. During the World Championships, Scola guarded Boozer and Brand very well. I think his hustle will create many more possessions for the Rockets.
Although he is not a very good rebounder judging from his stats, he isn’t below average in anyway. I believe he averaged around six rebounds per game in twenty eight minutes of action (a good amount of minutes in the European leagues), therefore with his time hopefully increasing with the Rockets, getting between seven to eight rebounds a night with the Rockets does not seem impossible. Under Adelman’s system, the big men are allowed to hit the offensive glass more, which will definitely help Scola get some hustle points.
My vision is for Scola to become a solid piece with the Houston Rockets. I have visions of him hustling, passing the ball, driving to the basket with reckless abandon, and bringing the much needed life the Rockets need in this team. With rather quiet leaders in Tracy and Yao, we need someone who will bring some aggresiveness and intensity to the basketball court, and I believe Scola will be this player. Scola is only twenty seven years of age, therefore he fits right in with the core of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and Shane Battier (all between 26-28 years old).
As of now, it is pure speculation of what Scola will do for the Rockets, but as fans I think we have finally found the answer to the power forward position. We have two solid guys who will be willing to do the dirty work.