After being a very effective starter for his entire NBA career, Luis Scola found himself in a limited bench role averaging just 18.8 minutes per game for the Pacers over the past two seasons. With that experience behind him, Scola is ready for a bigger role and he wants to chase a ring and he thinks he’s found both with the Raptors.
Being a limited role player wasn’t something Scola was ready to accept just yet. But, while his minutes took a big hit in Indiana, his production didn’t. He kept his scoring up on a per minute basis and significantly increased his rebounding rate. Scola was a plus player on a strong defensive team with a sub-.500 record. He didn’t let his situation impact his play, he played harder.
“Last couple of years sometimes it was a little frustrating to play less minutes than I was used too,” Scola said. “But you know it made me grow, it helped me focus on playing – what you do while you are playing instead of how many minutes you think you should be playing. So I am more focused on what I am going to do while I am playing.”
Scola is itching to contribute more. He looks good and feels good and he’s ready to go without any limitations to his playing time. This is a player that has only missed one regular season game over the past four seasons. He wants to play.
“I think I can play,” Scola said. “I feel like my legs are okay. I don’t think I have any limitations. I really work hard, it’s the key to everything and it’s been working for me lately. For the most part I stay healthy. I (spend) a lot of time on it and hopefully I can continue on that path.
“I expect to be a big part of the (Raptors). I expect to be a big part of the rotation and hopefully whatever (time) I get initially I get to grow by playing (well) and earn the respect of the coaches.”
It has become something of a tradition for NBA players in their mid-thirties to do a victory lap with the team they think is most likely to get them a ring in their final year(s) of their career and getting a ring is on Scola’s mind as well, but he wants more than that. He wants to be on a team that needs him, a team where he can contribute and he isn’t just along for the ride and that’s important in Toronto because the Raptors need him to be a contributor.
“I wanted to win,” Scola said. “I wanted to find a place where I could win and be a part of the team, be important. I was trying to get options to see how close to a ring could I get, but I was also trying to be part of a team, not just be (there) – (not) a team (that) is going to be good but not playing any role. To me it was also important that I could be on a team that is strong, a good place (standings) team with chances to grow and hopefully chase a ring at some point down the line, but also be a part, be important on the team and I felt that this was the situation (here).”
Scola believes, with some justification, that Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey can slide him into the starting lineup on opening night and he’ll put up the same numbers he did before he played in Indiana. That’s important in Toronto as Scola is replacing the very popular Amir Johnson at power forward, but if he can even approach his old starter’s production, he’ll leave what Johnson could provide on the court in the dust.
“I will probably be doing the same things I’ve been doing all these years that I’ve been playing,” Scola said. “I am 35 now, so pretty much everybody knows what I bring to a team and it’s going to be along the lines of the things that I have been doing for other teams in the past. I am not going to get extremely better at 35 and I am not going to be extremely worse.
“I’ve been the longest (most experienced) guy the last couple of years, so it kind of makes sense that it’s going to happen more and more and that’s okay. It doesn’t really bother me as long as I can play and I can practice and I can contribute to a team and help a team win, that’s all that counts.”
The Raptors signed Scola to a one-year deal, but its obvious Scola doesn’t view this as a one-year run. He came here to help Toronto move towards getting a ring and he knows that goal will likely take longer than just one year.
“I don’t think that it’s my last year,” Scola said. “You never know – that’s true. I don’t think anybody that’s actually retired now thought it was their last year when their last year came, so I don’t know, but I don’t feel like it’s my last year. I think I am going to be playing more.”
The 6’9 Scola didn’t make his mark in the NBA by being the biggest power forward or the fastest or the most athletic. He has always been described as crafty, someone that somehow gets himself to the right spot at the right time and he’s been doing it successfully for years. He has the kind of game that can last. Barring serious injury, Scola could play a long time yet in the NBA and there should be no misunderstanding – Scola has the kind of game Coach Casey likes.