In a word the Toronto Raptors power forward Luis Scola is professional. He is the kind of solid veteran that wins over his teammates and the coaching staff with hard work in practice, effort on the court and a selfless attitude. It doesn’t hurt that he is also a very good all-around basketball player. He is the kind of player head coach Dwane Casey has gravitated to in the past because the veteran is consistent, reliable and effective.
Cory Joseph has been watching Scola personally dismantle Team Canada’s hopes at each of the past three FIBA Americas tournaments and knows what this veteran can bring to the table.
“He is the oldest guy on the team,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report. “He brings a lot of experience. He takes care of his body very very well (and) that’s why he’s able to play at such a high and elite level. He brings something very valuable to the team.
“He definitely coaches guys if he sees something. He listens to everybody and their opinions, but a guy what that much experience, he definitely has a high I.Q. of the game.
“Luis on the pick-and-roll, I feel like we are on the same page. I feel I know his game by playing (against) him so much in the off season. We have a good connection.”
Scola has a knack for making the game easy for his teammates. Paired with Bismack Biyombo in the first few preseason games, the two big men have been a rebounding force and Biyombo has appreciated playing with the veteran.
“Luis has been playing the game forever,” Biyombo said. “He has the experience. He has a better knowledge of the game than I do and a lot of do in this room, so I give him a lot of respect for that. He is a good teammate trying to help guys on the floor and I think that is what makes a difference.
“We are two of the most vocal guys on the team and I think he makes my game and his game easy. When we talk on defense, we help other guys as well. Also, Luis passes the ball a lot more than shoots, so I love him for that and more than anything, he is just out there pushing guys as well.
“Playing next to a guy that has that positive energy and works like that, he makes the game so much easier that you don’t have to force anything. It just happens itself because of the quality of energy. That’s why I enjoy playing next to him the most.”
And, Scola genuinely likes helping his teammates get better.
“I like it,” Scola said. “There are some guys in this locker room that are 13, 14, 15 years younger than me, so it’s kind of fun. When I was that age, I remember the veterans that talked to me. It’s only fair for me to do the same thing.”
The Raptors wanted the younger stretch four Patrick Patterson to be their starting power forward for this year and into the future, but it has always been Scola who had the experience, style and overall game the team needed. Casey gave Patterson a hard look in the starting unit at the start of the preseason and didn’t turn to Scola as a starter until the second to last preseason game – probably because he knew what was going to happen.
“I thought (Scola) was solid,” Casey said after Scola started. “I thought his I.Q. was good. He was in the right places. He made the right decisions with his passes. He made his shots. He made (the Cavaliers) pay for putting a smaller four on him in the post which is smart on his part. He did a very good job in that (starter’s) position.
No surprises here. If Casey’s stated objective was to pair Jonas Valanciunas with the power forward he would be most effective with, he needed have bothered to look at anyone other than Scola. Scola will make Valanciunas’ job easier. Basically, Scola is better rebounding, better passing and more durable version of Amir Johnson.
“Same thing as last year,” Casey explained. “Amir (Johnson) is not a three-point shooter, same situation. You’d like to have a three-point shooter (like Patterson), (but) you can’t have everything and Pat (Patterson) does give us that in the second unit.
“I like what Scola brought, similar to what Amir brought last year. The rolling, the smartness, the rebounding, the defense, the pick-and-roll defense was solid. He (took) a charge. A lot of positive things from him being in the (starting) lineup.”
Under-appreciated for his defense, Scola often gets slagged because he doesn’t seem as physical as some fours or as fast as others, but he gets to where he is supposed to be and does what he is supposed to do and that’s what gets a coach’s attention. Casey can rely on him.
“He is a team defender,” Casey said. “A smart defender. He is is where he is supposed to be. He knows the system. He knows the rotations. I don’t know if you would call him a defensive stopper or a defensive juggernaut, but it is not going to be easy. He is not going to make life easy for the offensive player.”
When it comes to winning over Coach Casey, knowing what you are supposed to do on defense and then doing it is pretty much all that it takes. Add in how easy it is to play with Scola on offense and you’ve got a coach’s favorite in the making.