Out of the blue, veteran power forward Luis Scola wanted to join the Toronto Raptors this summer and after only a few days in camp, head coach Dwane Casey is calling the extremely durable 35-year-old a godsend. Scola is just the type of player Casey likes to rely upon when the chips are down. Someone who has been there and done that, but as importantly can still do it.
“(Scola) is smart,” Casey said. “He is an old soul. He has been there before, there is nothing that rattles him. He is talking (at camp) even though he is going to a new system, he is talking to other guys. He is a godsend for our team.
“We have gone six straight days and he is still standing. He is durable. As a staff we have have to make sure we don’t wear him out because he is pushing through drills and is the last man standing. Other guys are bent over at the knees and he is still going hard.”
Scola takes a lot of pride in his conditioning and durability. This guy is in exceptional basketball shape. Since the start of the lockout shortened season of 2011-12, Scola has only missed 1 regular season game and there was only one NBA season prior to that when he has missed any games.
“Scola and Cory (Joseph), I couldn’t believe it,” president and general manager Masai Ujiri said. “They were in here – they played on Saturday in Mexico and they were in here Monday lifting and working out. It says a lot about them.”
Scola had just been awarded the tournament MVP after leading Argentina to a Silver medal at the FIBA Americas in Mexico. Unlike the very young team from Canada where head coach Jay Triano carefully doled out minutes to keep his players from wearing down in a tournament that demands playing 10 games in 13 days, Scola averaged 32.4 minutes per contest. The schedule of four games in five days followed by four games in a row and a back-to-back semi-final and final barely slowed the big Argentine forward down as he led the tournament in scoring (21.1 points) and was second overall on the glass (10.1 rebounds).
“I just prepare for it,” Scola said. “That’s one of the things that’s (to my) advantage is the tournament is so particular, playing 10 games in 13 days, playing at a different altitude (7,382 feet, higher than mile high Denver), playing in a different situation, playing with different refs, playing against different styles. It’s all those things that when you are new (young) that you struggle with and that’s one of the things that goes to (my) advantage. We have been playing for so many years, you get to know what’s going to happen.”
A second round draft pick of the Spurs in 2002, Scola has played for three different NBA teams and filled a variety of roles. A good shooter and crafty finisher around the rim, he was a starter and effective scorer in Houston, but in his last two seasons in Indiana, his focus has been on defense and rebounding off the bench. Scola has taken on whatever role has been assigned to him and excelled. Last year he ripped down an impressive 25.6 percent of the available defensive boards. He will fill a huge need on the rebounding challenged Raptors.
“He’s spectacular,” Ujiri described. “We we spoke to teams that have had him, the one (thing is) you can’t keep him out of the gym. He just continues coming and coming and practicing and working out. He’s just that kind of (a guy). He has made himself very durable for a long time.”
Two seasons ago Casey turned to the 34-year-old veteran John Salmons for veteran stability and defense when the chips were down, but Salmons offensive skills were clearly diminished. Scola, on the other hand, has still got it at both ends. The Raptors offensive should run better with him on the court.
“Scola can handle the ball and quarterback out of the low post or elbow area and take some pressure off of K-Low,” Casey said.
“Veterans create an impact on teams,” Scola said. “Good veterans create a great impact. You can’t win without young talent, but it is very hard to win without good veteran leadership. Hopefully we have a good mix of both.
“There is a way to play anybody and you just got to find that way. There is always an edge you can have somewhere, you just have to find it.”
Make no mistake, Scola is a godsend to Casey. The Raptors head coach has another seasoned veteran he can rely on this season.